If you were told a cheek swab could tell you whether or not you carry a baldness gene, would you take the test? More importantly, what would you do if it said you did carry the gene? A new product called “HairDX” claims to identify people that will experience androgenetic alopecia, before the symptoms arise.
This new genetic test kit, according to HairDX, can identify a genetic variant found in more than 95 percent of bald men. If the gene is present it would indicate a 60 percent chance of going bald by the age of 40. If it is not present, it would indicate an 85 percent chance of not going bald by the age of 40. It claims to effectively identify the absence or presence of an androgenic receptor gene.
For men, HairDX claims to identify the presence of the androgen receptor (AR) gene found on the X chromosome but not the two unrelated genetic variants on chromosome 20 that studies have also identified to increase the risk of male pattern baldness sevenfold. Research has shown that one in seven men will have all three genetic variants.
But the test says it is not just for men. For women it provides a CAG score which supposedly helps to analyse the risk of developing female pattern hair loss. A larger CAG score indicates a low occurrence and risk of female pattern hair loss. A smaller CAG score will indicate a greater likelihood of significant hair loss.
If you want to know what your odds are like, the test will set you back US$249. Someone will take a swab of the inside of your cheek and send the swab off to a lab to be analysed.
Androgenetic alopecia, also known as male and female pattern hair loss, is a progressive condition. Generally, one third of men with this hereditary form of hair loss will experience thinning hair by the time they’re 40, but thinning can start anywhere from puberty. Current statistics show that up to 80 percent of men will be affected by androgenetic alopecia whilst roughly 40 percent of women will experience female pattern hair loss. However, because androgenetic alopecia is a multi-factorial condition (as in the gene is present but may not generate any symptoms until something, such as hormones, sets it off), most women won’t notice any hair loss until they reach menopause.
There are a few ancient methods of diagnosing hairloss such as a scalp biopsy, where a piece of scalp is taken to be analysed, or a unit area trichogram, where 50 to 100 hairs are plucked from different parts of the scalp and the follicles examined to determine the percentage of hair in anagen (growth), catagen (transitional) and telogen (resting) stages of hair growth. “Ten percent should be on the resting stage,” says Leonora Doclis, senior trichologist at the Belgravia Centre. “Any higher than that and it would indicate telogen effluvium.”
“A scalp biopsy is sometimes used to see if the follicles are scarred or degenerating,” Leonora says. “Trichograms are not very popular as most people worried about hair loss don’t want to part with any extra hair.”
The easiest and still effective option is a visual examination and consultation with a trichologist who can generate a diagnosis based on medical knowledge and non-intrusive methods. “Pattern hair loss is a multi-factorial condition but it is relatively easy to determine the genetic tendencies,” Leonora says.
In majority of cases, people tend to notice hair loss when there is thinning of about 20 percent of hair. “Some people are in denial,” Leonora says. “They realise they’re losing hair long before they decide to do anything about it.”
Perhaps the genetic tool kit would shorten the phase of denial if it were in fact a 100 percent guaranteed crystal ball. Still, if hair loss is not occurring, there is not much point taking drugs and treatment to prevent it, even if the genetic tendency is present.
There are plenty of supplements that attest to being able to prevent baldness and regrow hair which would, essentially, be relatively safe to use. Most are simply herbal remedies that will make the hair stronger and healthier but will in no way interfere with the genetic mechanisms of hair growth. There are only three hair loss treatments that actually work, that is, they have been approved by the FDA and scientifically proven to prevent hair loss and regrow hair.
“It’s a case of ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it’,” Leonora says. “Even preventative treatment is not beneficial if there is no evidence of receding or thinning.”
The best option remains – if you start to notice thinning, seek professional trichological advice and be assured that you’re getting the best advice and the best treatment possible. Even if you do wallow around in the denial phase for some time you’re likely to see some good results.