March 19, 2010 -- Here's potentially good news for balding men, especially young balding men who may be distressed by their lack of locks.
Hair loss before age 30 is associated with a lower risk of prostate cancer later in life, according to a new study that contradicts some earlier research.
''Men who have early-onset male pattern baldness, by age 30, were found to have a 29% reduction in the risk of developing prostate cancer," says study co-author Jonathan L. Wright, MD, an affiliate investigator at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle and assistant professor of urology at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. The study is published online in Cancer Epidemiology.
''The longer you have the baldness, the more the protection," he tells WebMD.
The apparent protection was found, he says, for aggressive and less aggressive forms of prostate cancer.
In 2009, about 192,000 new cases of prostate cancer were expected to be diagnosed in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society, with about 27,000 deaths expected. The prostate gland surrounds the neck of a man's bladder and urine-carrying tube, or urethra.
Male pattern baldness affects about 25% of men by age 30, 50% by age 50, and nearly 80% by age 70. Testosterone is converted to dihydrotestosterone or DHT, and baldness occurs when hair follicles become exposed to too much DHT.
Balding Men and Prostate Cancer Risk: Study Details
Wright and his colleagues evaluated 999 men, aged 35 to 74, diagnosed with prostate cancer between 2002 and 2005 in King County, Wash. They compared them to 942 men without prostate cancer, age-matched to the patients.
All of the men reported their hair pattern at age 30 -- little or no hair loss, loss at forehead only, loss at the top of head and forehead. The men diagnosed with prostate cancer also reported their hair loss pattern, if any, a year before their diagnosis. The men without a prostate cancer diagnosis reported their hair loss pattern a year before a reference date that corresponded with patients' various diagnosis dates.
The men also reported the use of any drugs that might interfere with male hormones, and the researchers took that into account.