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Baldness at a young age linked to later prostate cancer

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Baldness and prostate cancer risk

Men who begin to lose hair at age 20 may have a higher risk of developing prostate cancer later in life say French researchers.

The scientists found a possible link that they say may be related to androgen hormones that contribute to hair loss and also to prostate cancer in a first study.

The association was found in a study of 388 men being treated for prostate cancer who were compared to a control group of 281 healthy men, finding hair loss at age 20 was associated with double the chances of prostate cancer late in life. Men who reported male pattern baldness at age 30 or 40 did not appear to be at risk for developing the disease.

Professor Philippe Giraud (M.D., PhD), Professor of Radiation Oncology at the Paris Descartes University (Paris, France) and at the European Georges Pompidou Hospital (Paris, France), who led the research, said, "At present there is no hard evidence to show any benefit from screening the general population for prostate cancer. We need a way of identifying those men who are at high risk of developing the disease and who could be targeted for screening and also considered for chemo-prevention using anti-androgenic drugs such as finasteride. Balding at the age of 20 may be one of these easily identifiable risk factors and more work needs to be done now to confirm this."

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The men in the study were asked whether they had prostate cancer and to describe pattern of baldness on four pictures denoting type hair loss they experienced at age 20, 30 and 40. The men's physicians were also asked to submit a medical history to include prostate cancer diagnosis details such as age of diagnosis, stage and treatment given.

The pictures shown to the men were reflective of various types of baldness - no hair loss, receding hairline, circular baldness at the top of the head or a combination of both.

"There were only three men with stage III and none with stage IV hair loss at the age of 20, but the data revealed that any balding at stages II-IV (37 cases and 14 controls) was associated with double the risk of prostate cancer later in life. This trend was lost at ages 30 and 40" said Dr Michael Yassa who also worked on the research.

The scientists say more work needs to be done to understand if early baldness does increase the chances of prostate cancer. If hair loss is a risk factor for the disease, early screening and treatment would be appropriate. There was no association between age of onset of prostate cancer from early hair loss. The men in the study developed the disease between ages 46 and 84.

Annals of Oncology: doi: 10.1093/annonc/mdq695
"Male pattern baldness and the risk of prostate cancer"
M. Yassa, M. Saliou1, Y. De Rycke, C. Hemery, M. Henni1, J. M. Bachaud, N. Thiounn, J. M. Cosset and P. Giraud