Early-onset baldness linked to risk of prostate cancer in African American men

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Baldness was associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer among African American men, and risk for advanced prostate cancer increased with younger age and type of baldness, according to recently published data.

"We focused on African American men because they are at high risk for developing prostate cancer and are more than twice as likely to die from prostate cancer than other groups in the United States," said Charnita Zeigler-Johnson, PhD, research assistant professor at the Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. "Although this is a high-risk group for poor prostate cancer outcomes, no published study had focused on evaluating baldness as a potential risk factor in a sample of African American men."

Zeigler-Johnson and her colleagues identified 318 men with prostate cancer and 219 controls among participants who enrolled in the Study of Clinical Outcomes, Risk and Ethnicity (SCORE) between 1998 and 2010. All of them were African American and had varying degrees of baldness. They obtained information on type of baldness (none, frontal, and vertex) and other medical history using a questionnaire.

The researchers found that any baldness was associated with a 69% increased risk of prostate cancer. In particular, African American men with frontal baldness, and not vertex baldness, were more than twice as likely to have a diagnosis of advanced prostate cancer. This association was even stronger among men who were younger than 60 years at diagnosis, with a six-fold increase in high-stage prostate cancer and a four-fold increase in high-grade prostate cancer.

In addition, among younger men with prostate cancer, those with frontal baldness were more likely to have a high prostate-specific antigen level at diagnosis.

"Early-onset baldness may be a risk factor for early-onset prostate cancer in African American men, particularly younger men," said Zeigler-Johnson. "Pending future studies to confirm our results, there is a potential to use early-onset baldness as a clinical indicator of increased risk for prostate cancer in some populations of men."

This study was published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention (2013; doi:10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-12-0944).

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