THE QUESTION Hair loss in men shares some risk factors with prostate cancer. Both are more common with aging and when there’s a family history of the condition. Also, a hormone that’s a derivative of testosterone plays a role in both. Might there be a further connection between baldness and prostate cancer?
THIS STUDY analyzed data on 39,070 men, most in their 70s, who had no history of cancer (except perhaps non-melanoma skin cancer) at the start of the study. Slightly more than half reported some degree of hair loss at age 45. In about a three-year span, 1,138 of the men were diagnosed with prostate cancer, including 571 whose cancer was considered aggressive. In general, no link was found between hair loss and prostate cancer diagnosis. However, men whose hair loss at midlife was consistent with male-pattern baldness — bald on the top and thinning hair on the sides of the head — were 39 percent more likely to have developed aggressive prostate cancer than were men who had not experienced hair loss.
WHO MAY BE AFFECTED? Men. About one of every seven men will develop prostate cancer at some point; today, nearly 3 million U.S. men have the disease. About half of all men experience some hair loss by age 50, often starting with a receding hairline. Male-pattern baldness (androgenetic alopecia) is the most common type of more extensive hair loss.
CAVEATS Data on hair loss at midlife was based on the men’s recollections. Whether hair loss at other ages might be linked to prostate cancer was not studied. Most of the men were white.
FIND THIS STUDY Sept. 15 online issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology jco.ascopubs.org (click on “Early Release”).
The research described in Quick Study comes from credible, peer-reviewed journals. Nonetheless, conclusive evidence about a treatment's effectiveness is rarely found in a single study. Anyone considering changing or beginning treatment of any kind should consult with a physician.