Hair loss in women caused by divorce and smoking

2011-09-25 21:13

According to research published at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine two new causes of female hair loss have been discovered: smoking and divorce.

The research showed that, aside from genetics, a woman’s marital status is the biggest predictor of central hair loss. The loss of a spouse either because of divorce or death showed the largest amount of hair loss, with married and single women having a smaller incidence of hair loss.

In addition to losing a spouse, smoking and drinking to excess showed up as a secondary high cause of hair loss in women.

The study showed that men have entirely different reasons for hair loss. Those reasons included laziness, sun exposure and a history of cancer.

"Most likely, stress is the aspect of a troubling divorce that appears to lead to hair loss among women," said study author and Case Western Reserve School of Medicine Plastic Surgery Chair Dr. Bahman Guyuron. "What we can say is that we identified factors that appear to both raise risk and lower risk, for both men and women, independent of genetic disposition."

The study was done by focusing on 84 sets of female identical twins. Because identical twins have identical genes, genetics can be ruled out as a cause of any differences in the volume of hair loss each twin has. The twins completed lifestyle questionnaires, had hormone levels tested in their blood and then had extensive photo analysis done of their hair.

When it came to hair near the temples, the researchers found that smoking and skin conditions contributed to any hair loss. Near the top of the head, the researchers found that hair loss was linked to diabetes, skin conditions and being a current smoker. Researchers found the hair loss overall could be worse when women have more stress.

Attending physician in dermatology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City Dr. Doris Day said she was not at all surprised at the findings.

"It's complicated," she said, "but it's not a shock to suggest that various kinds of stress can lead to hair loss. Or that men and women don't experience stress in the same way, so that their hair loss patterns may be different."

"Of course, you can still get treatment," said Day. "You can still go for Rogaine drops or laser hair treatment, for example. There are always medical things that can be done, and one does not preclude the other. But patients also need to try and control what they can control in terms of the way they approach stress and handle situations."

Image credit: Wikimedia commons

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Metal stress leads to hair loss.