Men who start to lose hair at the age of 20 are more likely to develop prostate cancer in later life and might benefit from screening for the disease, according to a new study published online in the cancer journal, Annals of Oncology today.
The French study compared 388 men being treated for prostate cancer with a control group of 281 healthy men and found that those with the disease were twice as likely as the healthy men to have started going bald when they were 20. However, if the men only started to lose their hair when they were 30 or 40, there was no difference in their risk of developing prostate cancer compared to the control group. The study found no association between early hair loss and an earlier diagnosis of prostate cancer, and nor was there any link between the pattern of hair loss and the development of cancer.
Until now there has been conflicting evidence about the link between balding and prostate cancer; this is the first study to suggest a link between going bald at the young age of 20 and the development of prostate cancer in later life.
Professor Philippe Giraud (M.D., PhD), Professor of Radiation Oncology at the Paris Descartes University (Paris, France) and at the European Georges Pompidou Hospital (Paris, France), who led the research, said: "At present there is no hard evidence to show any benefit from screening the general population for prostate cancer. We need a way of identifying those men who are at high risk of developing the disease and who could be targeted for screening and also considered for chemo-prevention using anti-androgenic drugs such as finasteride. Balding at the age of 20 may be one of these easily identifiable risk factors and more work needs to be done now to confirm this."
Androgenic alopecia, sometimes known as male pattern baldness, is common in men, affecting 50% throughout their lifetime. A link has been established between baldness and androgenic hormones, and androgens also play a role in the development and growth of prostate cancer. Finasteride blocks the conversion of testosterone to an androgen called dihydrotestosterone, which is thought to cause hair loss, and the drug is used to treat the condition. It has also been shown to decrease the incidence of prostate cancer.