News: Is there a Link between Hair Loss and Prostate Cancer?

2nd December 2014

Is there a link between hair loss and prostate cancer?

A recent study revealed, that men who have a certain pattern of balding at the age 45 have a higher likelihood of contracting prostate cancer in their later years. How are hair loss and prostate cancer related and why can the way you go bald indicate your cancer risk? We will take a look at the causes of both conditions to explain the relation.

What causes hair loss?

Male pattern balding tends to run in families. Men who lose their hair usually have a genetic disposition for hair loss. Hair loss occurs, as a result of hair follicles being overly sensitive to the hormone testosterone. It is thought that men who suffer from hair loss have more receptors for this particular hormone, which causes the hair follicles to shrink. Most men experience hair loss to some extend in their lives as a part of the natural ageing process. The age at which they notice the first symptoms, however, differs significantly from man to man. While some men do not lose any hair until they have reached a very old age, others notice that their hairline is receding or the hair on the crown is thinning as early as their early twenties.

Testosterone and prostate cancer

Like hair loss, prostate cancer is believed to be linked to certain changes is testosterone levels. Preliminary studies have found evidence that men with higher testosterone levels are more likely to develop prostate cancer. The evidence is still inconclusive and this does not necessarily mean that there is a causal relation between the two. Scientists now hope to gain a better understanding of prostate cancer using the knowledge that men with a certain balding pattern are more likely to get it.

The balding pattern associated with a greater risk involved a combination of reduced frontal hair coverage and reasonable hair loss around the crown. (see image below).

Men who reported having had this hair loss pattern at the age of 45 were 39% more likely to get prostate cancer later on (the average age of the participants in the study was 70). However, further research is needed to confirm the results.

Should I get screened for prostate cancer?

Knowing that men with a particular type of hair loss have an amplified risk may help to offer prostate cancer screening to those most at risk in the future. Currently however, there it is not recommended that men opt for screening purely based on their history of hair loss. Screening is primarily offered to men who are experiencing symptoms or who have a very high risk due to a family history of cancer. To learn more about prostate cancer screening visit the NHS Public Health England website.

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