Is baldness linked to prostate cancer?

A new study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology suggests that male-pattern baldness may be linked to an increased risk for prostate cancer. Specifically, men who show early signs of baldness or hair loss in general may be at an increased risk of dying from prostate cancer.

The research findings were recently presented by the National Cancer Institute at the American Association for Cancer Research meeting in Philadelphia. The study involved more than 4,000 U.S. men between the ages of 25 and 74. Participant’s medical records were analyzed and assessed by a dermatologist. All the study participants were placed into categories including not balding, minimal balding, moderate balding or severe balding.

The results showed that men with any type of balding were 56 percent more likely to die from prostate cancer over a 21-year period, compared with men who had no signs of balding or hair loss in general. Men who experienced moderate balding were 83 percent more likely to die from prostate cancer.

The researchers cannot determine a cause-and-effect relationship between baldness and prostate cancer, however. They said it could be due to the amount of male hormones, such as testosterone. Certain male hormones are believed to play a role in both male-pattern baldness and prostate cancer, and men with male-pattern baldness may have higher levels of testosterone.

In prostate cancer, testosterone is known to be one of the factors that drives the growth of the disease. This is why men with a prostate cancer recurrence benefit from androgen-deprivation therapy, because it cuts off testosterone production and slows the growth of prostate cancer cells.

Could it be DHT? Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is a male hormone that is produced from testosterone by an enzyme called 5a reductase. DHT is found in hair follicles and is linked to hair loss. DHT is also found in the prostate and helps the organ gland properly. On the other hand, too much DHT in the prostate can cause abnormal prostate conditions.

Prior research had shown a link between baldness and prostate cancer. In fact researchers from Harvard Medical School have previously reported that men with baldness may be 1.5 times more likely to develop prostate cancer, compared to men without baldness.

Could male pattern baldness one day be used as an indicator for prostate cancer risk? With more evidence, it may be possible. In this case, it could help identify which men would benefit most from screening for prostate cancer.

Right now, screening for prostate cancer is very controversial. Researchers first need to prove that baldness is a valuable factor in predicting a man’s risk for prostate cancer.