Is male pattern baldness an early warning sign of prostate cancer?

Recommended by Dr. Michael White, Updated on October 25th, 2018
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Men with male pattern baldness may face a higher risk of developing an aggressive type of prostate cancer than men with no balding, a new study suggests.

But, the study authors noted that it's not clear yet whether men with this specific pattern of baldness should be concerned. Their study only found an association between male pattern baldness and aggressive prostate cancer. It did not prove cause and effect.

"It is conceivable that, in the future, male pattern baldness may play a small role in estimating risk of prostate cancer and may contribute to discussions between doctors and patients about prostate cancer screening," said study co-author Michael Cook. Cook is an investigator with the division of cancer epidemiology and genetics at the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

The study is published in the Sept. 15 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Male pattern baldness is a pattern of hair loss that begins when the front hairline as well as the top of the back of the head (crown) starts to recede. In some men, the hair recedes on the right and left sides of the upper forehead and a tuft of hair remains in between.

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This kind of baldness develops as a result of "a cumulative, lifelong exposure to testosterone in the skin," said Dr. Charles Ryan, an associate clinical professor with the department of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. Ryan wrote an accompanying editorial in the same issue of the journal.

The level of testosterone isn't necessarily the issue, Ryan said, but instead the skin's ability to process the hormone. Hair-loss treatments such as Propecia aim to block the effect of testosterone -- sometimes called the male hormone -- on the skin, he said.

Testosterone also drives prostate cancer, Ryan said, and that could explain previous research that's linked male pattern baldness to the disease.

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Is male pattern baldness an early warning sign of prostate cancer?

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