Both male pattern baldness and prostate cancer have common risk factors, including advanced age and changes in androgen (a male hormone) metabolism. A new study published in the Canadian Urological Association Journal assessed whether male balding is a risk factor for prostate cancer.
In 2014, 23,600 Canadian men were diagnosed with prostate cancer, and 4000 men died due to the disease, making prostate cancer the second most common type of cancer worldwide. Prostate cancer affects the prostate gland, a component of the male reproductive system. However, cancer cells from the prostate can spread to other parts of the body including the bones and lymph nodes. Four risk factors have been identified for prostate cancer, including advanced age, race (African Americans are more likely than Caucasian Americans to develop prostate cancer), a family history of the disease, and a small number of genetic alleles. Given the huge proportion of men who develop prostate cancer, there is a need to better understand the progression of this disease.
In healthy individuals, the prostate requires specific hormones, known as androgens, to function properly. Another androgen-responsive element is hair follicles, which respond to androgens in order to stimulate hair growth. Given that androgens have been implicated in both male pattern baldness and prostate cancer, they may have an overlapping mechanism. A new study published in the Canadian Urological Association Journal aimed to determine if men with male pattern baldness are at a higher risk of developing prostate cancer.
In this study, the researchers enrolled 400 patients who were already undergoing a prostate biopsy and independently assessed their balding pattern through scoring. They then compared the results of the prostate exam between the subjects with and without male pattern balding.
Strikingly, males who presented with moderate to severe balding were significantly associated with increased prostate cancer risk. The researchers hypothesize that these results may be explained by the shared risk factors for both male pattern baldness and prostate cancer, such as aging, genetic factors, and androgen metabolism.
The authors concluded that balding appears to be a strong risk factor for prostate cancer in men. They plan to enroll an additional group of patients in a similar study to measure total testosterone and DHT levels. The authors will assess the changes in the androgen levels to determine whether the association they observed in this study is due to changes in androgen metabolism. These results will have large implications for human health; as males who are balding may be at a higher risk of developing prostate cancer, they may be monitored more closely for the development of disease so a treatment strategy can be implicated sooner than later.
Written By: Neeti Vashi, BSc