Men who develop male pattern baldness by age 30 were found to have a lower risk of developing prostate cancer, says research from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington School of Medicine, both in Seattle.
The study, led by Jonathan L. Wright MD, analyzed about 1900 American men in King County Washington, ages 40 to 47. Slightly over 50% of the men (999) had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. The men were asked to report their hair pattern at age 30, describing it as little or no hair loss, loss at forehead only, or loss at the top of the head and forehead. The men were also asked to describe their hair one year before the study, or one year before their prostate cancer diagnosis, whichever was relevant to the individual. The use of male hormones or other types of drugs were also evaluated and considered.
Those who began losing their hair by age 30 were found to have a 29% reduction in the risk of developing prostate cancer. Men who had been balding longer had more protection (45%) and the protection was found for both aggressive and less-aggressive forms of the disease.
The exact cause of the link between male pattern baldness and prostate cancer has yet to be discovered. Dr. Wright suspects a genetic variant in the male hormone receptor gene may affect both conditions.
Early-onset hair loss in men is usually due to excessive exposure of dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a chemical produced from testosterone that causes the hair follicles to shrink and become thinner. Both male pattern baldness and prostate cancer have links to a man’s levels of testosterone.
Dr. Peter Galier MD, associate professor of medicine at the Unviersity of California Los Angeles David Geffen School of Medicine, says that he also believes that men with high levels of DHT can both lose their hair and have enlarged (but not necessarily cancerous) prostates, but that more research needs to be done.
Male pattern baldness affects about 25% of men by age 30 and about 50% of men by age 50.