A new study into the biology of Male Pattern Baldness, by researchers at the University of Bonn in Germany, has identified various characteristics that they believe can influence its prevalence in men. Two key aspects of these findings were the relationships between a man’s height as well as his race in determining future androgenetic alopecia.
Now, as well as not being able to jump, it seems white men are also more likely to experience genetic hair loss – and especially if they are short.
Largest study of its kind to date
This project was, according to the study details which were published recently in the Nature Communications journal, ‘the largest GWAS meta-analysis of MPB to date, comprising 10,846 early-onset cases and 11,672 controls from eight independent cohorts’.
The team investigated the key pathophysiological aspects of Male Pattern Baldness in order to better understand their ‘biological underpinnings’. As with any medical condition, the aim was to improve knowledge in relation to male pattern hair loss as, given it now affects 80 per cent of European men and 85 per cent of American men yet only has two clinically-proven treatments, the team felt there may be room for improvement.
There are only two MHRA licensed and FDA approved treatments for pattern hair loss in men; Finasteride 1mg is an oral tablet taken once per day to inhibit DHT, the hormone responsible for thinning hair in cases of male pattern baldness, whilst high strength minoxidil is a vasodilator which is applied directly to the scalp in order to encourage hair growth. Both can be used on their own or in tandem with each other, plus supplementary hair growth supporting products may also be used to further augment this approach.
By investigating the genetics of male pattern baldness further, the Bonn researchers hoped to uncover information that could potentially help to develop more biologically-specific hair loss treatments.
Height and skin colour can influence hair loss
Short men – considered to be those under 5ft 10″ – and those with lighter skin colours were found most prone to premature hair loss.
Dr. Stefanie Heilmann-Heimbach, a human geneticist at the University of Bonn and one of the lead authors of the study, explained via press release how, by studying over 20,000 men from seven different countries: “We were thus able to identify 63 alterations in the human genome that increase the risk of premature hair loss… Some of these alterations were also found in connection with other characteristics and illnesses, such as reduced body size, earlier occurrence of puberty and various cancers.”
The University’s Director of the Institute of Human Genetics, Prof. Markus Nöthen, added: “We have also found links to light skin color and increased bone density,” explains at the University of Bonn. “These could indicate that men with hair loss are better able to use sunlight to synthesize vitamin D. They could also explain why white men in particular lose their hair prematurely.”
Whilst this could explain why 5ft 7in actor Tom Cruise, with his Italian heritage, is thought to use hair loss treatments to keep his leading mane status, predicting hairloss is not quite that simple.
For example, footballer and hair transplant ‘poster boy’ Wayne Rooney (pictured), who started experiencing premature hair loss in his late teens, falls into both the white and the ‘short’ category at 5ft 9in, though it’s interesting to note that Latino pop star Bruno Mars at 5ft 5in, and African American actor Kevin Hart, who is 5ft 2in, both have a thick head of hair. This is in stark contrast to basketball legend Lebron James who despite being black and 6ft 8in tall has had well-documented struggles with a receding hairline. The Rock aka Dwayne Johnson, who is a statuesque 6ft 5in and mixed race, is famous for his bald look which is due to shaving his head to deal with male pattern baldness.
At the end of the day, whilst the factors uncovered by this latest study may increase the risks of early onset male hair loss, they do not seem to affect the overall chance of developing male pattern baldness. Also, seeing as hair loss treatment is often most effective when started early, it does not mean short men or men of any specific race should despair.
Christina Chikaher, Superintendent Pharmacist Prescriber at Belgravia, explains: “These statistics show that men of all races and ethic origins tend to develop Male Pattern Baldness, but some just seem to develop it later in life or it could simply be that we just have more statistics on the white population.
In men of European origin, balding usually starts in one’s 30s. Up to 80 per cent of European men are affected to some extent. Hair loss in Asian men comes about a decade later, and the overall frequence is much lower, impacting 50 to 60 per cent of men. There is relatively little data on baldness in Africa, but male hair loss there seems even less frequent.
There are so many different theories as to the cause of MPB. There seems to be a link showing that short white men may be more prone to Male Pattern Baldness, but from our experience at Belgravia, we treat a range of men from all races and backgrounds. I personally don’t see a definite link with stature and MPB and I think we have a pretty good mix of tall and short men as clients. Equally, we have a mix of ethnic origins. If anything, I would say that we treat a larger percentage of non-white males, both across Belgravia’s Central London hair loss clinics and via our home-use service for clients based abroad.
Over the years, every possible cure has been tried for MPB. The only absolute cure for MPB at the moment is castration and this is pretty drastic! For the time being the only thing we are sure about is that minoxidil and finasteride 1mg are proven to treat hair loss and prevent baldness but much more research is needed to prove anything else.”
Study citation: Heilmann-Heimbach, S. et al. Meta-analysis identifies novel risk loci and yields systematic insights into the biology of male-pattern baldness. Nat. Commun. 8, 14694 doi: 10.1038/ncomms14694 (2017).
The Belgravia Centre is an organisation specialising in hair growth and hair loss prevention with two clinics and in-house pharmacies in Central London, UK. 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 world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which includes the world’s largest gallery of hair growth comparison photos and demonstrates the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time to arrange a free consultation.