A new American study into the links between balding and prostate cancer, the most common cancer in men in the UK, has just been published. It found that men with male pattern hair loss who are bald by the time they reach 45 are more likely to develop aggressive prostate cancer than men who keep their hair.
Male hair loss and prostate cancer
U.S. researchers discovered that men with frontal baldness (hair loss at the front of their heads, also known as a receding hairline) and a moderately thinning crown were 40 per cent more likely to develop a fast-growing prostate tumour, than men who were not balding.
The study looked at 39, 070 men who were aged 55- 74 at the time of enrolling onto the U.S. Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Trial, a large-scale trial looking into the effects of cancer screening. Of these, 1,138 prostate cancer cases were diagnosed at the follow-up, with 51 per cent of these cases being aggressive.
For the purposes of this study, ‘aggressive’ was defined as scoring seven or higher on the Gleason scale, a prognosis scale used to evaluate prostate cancer sufferers. It also included stage III or IV prostate cancer patients, or sufferers who had died from prostate cancer. Of those studied, 72 was found to be the average age a man was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
It is not known how the extent of the subjects’ of hair loss was defined for this study but baldness is typically considered level VII or above on the Norton Scale of hair loss.
The study found no significant link between other patterns of hair loss and risks of prostate cancer, either aggressive, where the tumour grows at a faster rate, or non-aggressive.
The effects of testosterone
Researchers believed that prostate cancer and male pattern baldness could both be caused by higher levels of the male sex hormones androgens, and androgen receptors. This reinforces the longstanding theory that the same testosterone metabolism responsible for prostate growth is also the cause of male hair loss.
Findings from this new study also support earlier research by the Cancer Council of Victoria in Australia, which found that higher levels of the male androgen testosterone, could trigger baldness by attacking hair follicles and slowing down hair growth.
This previous study found that high levels of testosterone can also cause cancerous cells to develop. The US researchers believe the similarity of the outcomes from these two studies suggest there may be a biological link between male pattern hair loss and prostate cancer.
The study’s lead author, investigator in the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics at the National Cancer Institute, Michael B. Cook, PhD, believes that further research is needed but said:
‘Our study found an increased risk for aggressive prostate cancer only in men with a very specific pattern of hair loss, baldness at the front and moderate hair-thinning on the crown of the head, at the age of 45. But we saw no increased risk for any form of prostate cancer in men with other hair-loss patterns.‘
‘While our data shows a strong possibility for a link between the development of baldness and aggressive prostate cancer, it’s too soon to apply these findings to patient care.’
Two additional studies into the relationship between male pattern baldness and the risk of developing and dying from prostate cancer are currently being conducted by Dr. Cook’s team.
To increase the reliability of the information provided by participants, one of these studies is using a ‘baseline dermatologic assessment’ of male pattern hair loss. This is instead of asking men to recall their pattern of their hair loss at age 45 using a picture tool which was the method used in Dr. King’s latest research.
Should future studies also support these findings, doctors could soon be able to identify men with an increased risk of developing aggressive prostate cancer
Hair loss treatment drug found to reduce prostate cancer
Studies into finasteride and prostate cancer tested the drug in 5mg doses, the dosage used to treat enlarged prostates, as well as at the lower dose of 1mg, the amount used to treat male pattern hair loss. In both cases finasteride was found to reduce the risk of developing of prostate cancer. Additionally, the study found that the rate of aggressive tumours was likely decreased by 27 per cent in those taking finasteride compared to those taking a placebo.
Dr. Ian Thompson, chair of the Department of Urology at the University of Texas Health Science Centre at San Antonio and a senior author on two of the most significant studies into finasteride and cancer treatment, explained:
“We’ve now shown that the cancers prevented by finasteride are often clinically significant, the same kind of cancers that lead to surgery… In addition, we showed a 28 percent reduction of high-grade cancer with finasteride.”
“Finasteride actually shrank the prostate gland, so it appeared in initial studies that more cancer was being found in biopsies of men who took the drug,” added Mary Redman, Ph.D., a biostatistician at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre. “What that means is that the cancer took up more prostate tissue in men who were treated, and that is why it was easier to find in a biopsy. Cancer was probably missed more often in biopsies of men on a placebo drug because the prostate gland itself was larger” .
Because of the effects of finasteride on prostate cancer, it is recommended that men who are taking Propecia should stop one week before having a prostate exam. Propecia generally takes seven days to exit the body which is why this is necessary in order to get the most accurate results from any examination.
The Belgravia Centre
The Belgravia Centre The Belgravia Centre is the leader in hair loss treatment in the UK, with two clinics based in Central London. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the UK or the rest of the world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which are the largest collection of such success stories in the world and demonstrate the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time for our hair loss helpline or to arrange a free consultation.