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
''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
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.
Balding and Prostate Cancer Risk: Findings
Men with any significant hair loss at age 30 had a 29% reduced risk of
prostate cancer, the researchers found.
Then Wright's team looked at a smaller subgroup -- men who were balding in
their 30s at both the top of the head and the forehead -- and were over age 60
at the reference date.
In this subgroup, he found a risk reduction of 45%.
Balding and Lower Prostate Cancer Risk: Why?
Previous studies have found conflicting results when looking at the
relationship between baldness and prostate cancer risk, Wright says. Some
studies found an increased risk with baldness and others found no change in
risk, regardless of hair patterns.