Link Between Baldness and Prostate Cancer

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A recent article on FoxNews.com caught my eye a few days ago. According to a “new” study, says Fox author Dr. David B. Samadi, some kinds of male pattern baldness increases a man’s risk of prostate cancer.

Now, I’m a bald man—a bald naturopathic urologist. Of course these things are interesting to me. But Dr. Samadi, who’s a top robotic surgeon and a friend of natural and integrative medicine, isn’t saying anything new. The scientific community has recognized a link between male pattern baldness and an increased risk of prostate cancer for at least 15 years (Denmark-Wahnefried et al., 2000). 

Balding is a fact of male life. When did your hair start thinning? In your late teens? In your 20s? 30s? Are you one of the few men over the age of 45 who still have their hair? About 70% of men go bald sometime in their lives (McElwee & Shapiro 2012). I can say that most of my patients are bald without infringing on anyone’s privacy. Countless studies have been published about “treatments” for baldness (Varothai & Bergfeld, 2014), but, in my opinion, baldness is normal and not worth treating. There are more important things to do than try to regrow your hair.

I digress. The study that Dr. Samadi rehashes, which was actually published online all the way back in September, does include some interesting findings. By examining the relationship between the risk of prostate cancer and balding severity in 39,070 men, they found that frontal and vertex balding (balding near the back of the head) at age 45 was associated with a 42% increased risk of aggressive prostate cancer. Other kinds of male pattern baldness were not associated with prostate cancer (Zhou et al., 2015).

These findings are not new, as science has solidified a somewhat consistent link between these two conditions over the past fifteen years. In some ways, the connection between baldness and prostate cancer is intuitive. It seems to make sense that an increased level of androgens in the body would increase one’s risk of prostate cancer, as androgen deprivation therapy is often prescribed as treatment. But at the same time, studies have failed to find a link between male pattern baldness and the level of androgens in the blood (Faydaci et al., 2008).

What do I make of all this? All we can say at this point is that, if you experienced frontal and vertex balding at age 45 and have not been diagnosed with prostate cancer, now is the time to get a check-up. Research has not yet discovered why there is a link between prostate cancer and baldness—it could be due to a common relationship to androgens like DiHydrotestosterone (DHT) but in the meantime, while we surely can’t reduce our risk of prostate cancer by regrowing our hair, we can reduce it by eating right, staying active, and taking the right supplements combinations. 

References

Demark-Wahnefried, W., Schildkraut, J. M., Thompson, D., Lesko, S. M., McIntyre, L., Schwingl, P., . . . Walther, P. J. (2000). Early Onset Baldness and Prostate Cancer Risk. Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention, 9(3), 325-328.

Faydaci, G., Bilal, E., Necmettin, P., Fatih, T., Asuman, O., & Ugur, K. (2008). Baldness, benign prostate hyperplasia, prostate cancer and androgen levels. Aging Male, 11(4), 189-192. doi: 10.1080/13685530802400995

McElwee, K. J., & Shapiro, J. S. (2012). Promising therapies for treating and/or preventing androgenic alopecia. Skin Therapy Lett, 17(6), 1-4. 

Varothai, S., & Bergfeld, W. F. (2014). Androgenetic alopecia: an evidence-based treatment update. Am J Clin Dermatol, 15(3), 217-230. doi: 10.1007/s40257-014-0077-5

Zhou, C. K., Pfeiffer, R. M., Cleary, S. D., Hoffman, H. J., Levine, P. H., Chu, L. W., . . . Cook, M. B. (2015). Relationship between male pattern baldness and the risk of aggressive prostate cancer: an analysis of the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial. J Clin Oncol, 33(5), 419-425. doi: 10.1200/jco.2014.55.4279

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