doctor2What if you could tell someone’s risk of developing cancer just by looking at them? A visual flag like that could facilitate speedier and more effective treatment. Well some scientists believe that this may be possible for linking hair loss and prostate cancer.

Testosterone

The hormone that has been held largely responsible for male pattern baldness and prostate cancer led researchers to investigate whether the age of onset of hair loss could be linked to likelihood of developing prostate cancer.

We already know that men with higher levels of testosterone production in their bodies are more likely to lose their hair – as the testosterone breaks down it produces a by-product called dihydrotestosterone (DHT) which attacks the hair follicles which then become less able to grow normal hair, until ultimately they close up all together.

DHT also interferes with the development of the prostate, leading to hypertrophy or enlarged prostate.

The research

Conducted by postdoctoral fellow, Cindy Zhou, at the National Cancer Institute, findings were based on the analysis of information provided by over 4000 men aged between 25 and 74 years, and included an assessment by a dermatologist for categories of baldness.

Cindy Zhou explained that signs of balding contributed to a 56% greater likelihood of dying of prostate cancer, compared with men who experienced no hair loss at all. The greater the degree of balding, the higher the risk of death to prostate cancer, she also found.

Balding as a risk factor

While further research is required to confirm preliminary findings, demonstrating that using male pattern baldness as an indicator for prostate cancer can improve outcomes may change the way doctors prioritise treatment. It may even bring men to the doctor for screening sooner, leading to more effective treatment in the long term.

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By Ian Watson

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