Can baldness predict prostate cancer?Male pattern hair loss is by no means uncommon with approximately half the male population affected by the age of 50. Not only it is in an inevitable part of the ageing process for many men there is also an increasing amount of evidence to show that balding men are more likely to suffer from prostate cancer.

Not a causal link

The first thing to point out is that no-one is suggesting it’s a causal link i.e. baldness doesn’t cause prostate cancer but rather has an association because of common factors. The theory goes that high levels of male hormones, like testosterone are linked to hair loss and malignant tumours in the prostate.

In fact, it’s not just hair loss that is being researched as a potential signifier of prostate cancer. There’s work going on to establish an association between tooth loss and prostate cancer for similar hormonal reasons.

A recent study at Toronto’s Princess Margaret Cancer Centre which focused on a group of 400 approximately half of who had been diagnosed with cancer. The results pointed to a distinct association between levels of baldness and the incidence of cancer. The patients showing the most advanced hair loss were up to three times more likely to have the disease than those without any loss.

This also supports work that was carried out in 2016 by the US national cancer institute which suggested that the incidence was just under twice as much in men with moderate baldness.

Diet could play a factor

A commentator on the research, Anita Vanderhaeghe points out that testosterone is not the actual cause of the problem but rather DHT (Dihydrostestorone).

The differentiation is significant because Vanderhaeghe points out that if the production of DHT is inhibited then it can reduce hair loss and, more importantly the incidence of prostate cancer. DHT inhibitors can be found in commercial drugs like Finasteride or in some common foods such as almonds, peanuts, tomatoes and watermelon.

The team responsible for the Canadian research have mainly played down the significance of their findings, seeing it as complementary to existing methods such as PSA blood tests which are imprecise at best. They certainly don’t see it as a replacement for taking biological samples but they do make the observation “if they’re on the borderline of whether to do a biopsy…you may want to take into account the added risk factor of the men’s head of hair.”

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By Ian Watson

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