ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI
— New research finds a link between early baldness and cancer of the male reproductive gland known as the prostate. The study involved African-American men, a group at particularly high risk of prostate cancer.
At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be an obvious connection between prostate cancer and baldness. But University of Pennsylvania researcher Charnita M. Zeigler-Johnson, PhD, says the two may be linked through a testosterone product called dihydrotestosterone, or DHT. The hormonal chemical, Zeigler-Johnson explains, “is a form of testosterone that seems to be associated with male-pattern baldness and also connected to prostate cancer occurrence and prostate cancer progression.”
Previous studies have looked at the link between baldness and prostate cancer, but Zeigler-Johnson says this is the first to focus on African-American men, whose prostate cancer death rate is two and a half times that of white American men.
In the study, Zeigler-Johnson and her colleagues asked about 300 prostate cancer patients and some 200 non-patients about their baldness history. They then compared the type of baldness and the age when the men started losing hair with their medical histories.
“Among men who have baldness at age 30, they’re more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer at an early age, meaning before age 60,” Zeigler-Johnson explained in a telephone interview. “And they were more likely to be diagnosed with a higher stage and grade of cancer - so, more advanced cancer.”
Those most at risk for serious prostate cancer were men with frontal baldness, sometimes called receding hairline. But any kind of baldness was associated with an increased risk.
Since this study was done in one specific, high-risk group: African-American men - it’s not clear whether the link between baldness and prostate cancer will hold for other groups. That would be a matter for further research.
The study by Charnita Zeigler-Johnson and her colleagues is published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.