Men who begin to lose their hair at age 20 years might be at greater risk for developing prostate cancer later in life.
In France, a study of 388 men with a history of prostate cancer and 281 men without revealed that members of the cancer group were twice as likely to have had androgenic alopecia—male pattern baldness—at age 20 years. However, early-onset alopecia was not associated with an earlier diagnosis of prostate cancer or with the development of more aggressive tumors.
Research had already suggested a relationship between male pattern baldness and androgens prior to the current investigation, which was led by Professor Philippe Giraud (MD, PhD), of the radiation oncology department at the Paris Descartes University. But no direct link between the two conditions has been consistently shown. However, as Dr. Giraud and colleagues noted in their online report for Annals of Oncology (http://annonc.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2011/01/25/annonc.mdq695.full.pdf+html?sid=75cc76ea-5021-432d-a084-d250bf2f1d66), androgens play a role in the development and growth of prostate cancer. “Finasteride, a type II 5-alpha reductase inhibitor that blocks the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone, is used for the treatment of androgenic alopecia and has been shown to decrease the incidence of prostate cancer,” they wrote.
Professor Giraud’s group contends that further research may confirm that early-onset androgenic alopecia identifies men who are at high risk of developing prostate cancer, and may further establish that these men might benefit from routine screening and possibly the systematic use of finasteride or other antiandrogenic agents.