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Male Pattern Baldness Genetics: Is There Any Way To Predict Hair Loss?

By Kevin Hwang, MD, MPH
Reviewed by Jennifer T. Haley, MD, FAAD on March 03, 2021
Male pattern baldness is influenced by genes, but it’s not easy to predict whether you’ll be affected.

Hair loss is a frustrating problem for millions of men and women. Factors such as diet, stress, and medications can lead to hair loss but genes can also play an important role in male pattern baldness.

What Is Male Pattern Baldness?

Male pattern baldness, also known as androgenetic alopecia, is a common type of hair loss that causes men to lose hair in a well-recognized pattern. The hair begins to thin out above both temples and recedes into an M-shaped hairline. Hair loss can also occur at the top of the head (crown), and men with this kind of hair loss can become completely bald. According to the US National Library of Medicine, male pattern baldness can begin during the teenage years and the risk increases with age.

There are many factors involved in male pattern baldness, and one key element is the level of male hormones called androgens. Increased levels of androgens make the hairs shorter and thinner, and may eventually prevent additional hairs from growing and replacing those that shed.

Is There Any Way To Predict Genetic Hair Loss?

People with male pattern baldness tend to have family members with the same type of hair loss. Having a close relative with male pattern baldness increases the risk of developing the condition yourself. Common folk wisdom says that baldness comes from the mother’s side of the family. But it’s not that simple.

“The genes for hair loss are actually inherited from both sides of the family, not just your mother or your father,” Adam Mamelak, MD, a dermatologist in Austin, Texas tells WebMD Connect to Care. “However, male-pattern or hereditary-pattern hair loss is not that straightforward as you have the gene or don't have the gene. It's really a combination of genetics, hormone levels, and the natural aging process,” Mamelak says. 

In a 2017 study published in PLOS Genetics, researchers identified 287 genetic variations associated with male pattern baldness. Their comprehensive genetic analysis can estimate the risk of developing male pattern baldness, but it’s not completely precise. For example, of the study’s participants who scored in the top 10% with respect to hair loss genes, only 58% reported moderate-to-severe hair loss. 

As well as noting if your family members have male pattern baldness, you can also look out for some early signs of hair loss. You might see more scalp on the front of your head. Or you might notice extra hair in your comb or in the shower. If you’re concerned about any degree of hair loss that you notice, getting treated early gives you the best chance to preserve your hair.

Don’t Wait. Get Help Today.

The sooner you address the symptoms of hair loss, the more likely you are to prevent irreversible damage. Speak to a medical professional today to begin your journey to a fuller head of hair.