Can early baldness signal elevated prostate cancer risk?

According to a study was published in the Oxford Journals Annals of Oncology, men who experienced androgenic alopecia, or male pattern baldness, by the age of 20 were at an increased risk for prostate cancer later in their lives. The male hormone, androgen, might play an important role in developing both prostate cancer and male pattern baldness, or adrogenic alopecia.

How do male hormones work?

Testosterone, which is a very potent androgen or male hormone, is responsible for increased muscle mass, deepened voice and strong bones characteristic of the male gender. In addition, testosterone can contribute to aggression, libido, and growth of genitalia during puberty. Male hormones also have an effect on the liver and cholesterol; however, when it is converted into another androgen, it acts on the skin and hair follicles, and in some cases, producing male pattern baldness.

While promoting male pattern baldness, male hormones can also stimulate prostate cell growth or proliferation, contributing to benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH, in the older man. When testosterone is converted into a hormone called dihydrotestosterone or DHT, the risk of prostate cancer can rise.

What is the connection between DHT and prostate cancer?

According to The Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide, DHT promotes both the proliferation of prostate cells and hair loss, and that men who were diagnosed with prostate cancer were more likely to have had bald spots on the tops of their heads, which is referred to as vertex baldness, as opposed to those men who did not have bald spots. This association was markedly increased in men who had high-grade prostate cancers between the ages of 60 and 69. Conversely, there was no associated link between men who had receding hairlines, which is called frontal baldness, and prostate cancer.

What are other risk factors for prostate cancer?

Although vertex baldness appears to be a risk factor in the development of prostate cancer, other important factors might also be contributors.

According to The American Cancer Society, age, family history, genetics and diet are all potential risk factors for prostate cancer, as is smoking, inflammation of the prostate and possibly obesity. It has been speculated that men who have had vasectomies, especially before the age of 35 might have a slightly higher than normal risk of developing prostate cancer, but most studies have discounted this theory.

It is important to note, however, that simply because a man has certain risk factors that might predisposing him from getting prostate cancer, this does not mean that he will get the disease. In fact, most men who have prostate cancer risk factors never get it, and, in fact, some men who do not have any risk factors at all sometimes get prostate cancer. Men should note, however, that regular physical examinations can be their best defense against prostate cancer because early detection can increase the chances of a cure.

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