Men with frontal baldness and moderate baldness on the crown of the head had a higher risk of developing an aggressive form of prostate cancer.
Researchers said the finding adds to evidence of a hormone-based, biological link between baldness and prostate cancer, but added that more studies would be needed to support whether baldness patterns should be part of a screening system. Until more research is available, men shouldn’t be overly concerned about baldness patterns, the study’s researchers said.
The hair-loss pattern associated with a higher risk was frontal baldness plus moderate baldness on the vertex, or crown of the head, which about 10% of the men in the study recalled having at age 45. Other patterns—frontal only, and frontal plus mild or severe vertex baldness—weren’t associated with an increased risk of aggressive prostate cancer. The results of the study were published online Monday in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
The finding arose from the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial, a large study started in the early 1990s by the National Cancer Institute to determine whether certain screening methods reduce cancer death rates.
In one segment of the trial, from 2006 to 2008, researchers provided questionnaires to men asking them to choose one of five illustrations that most closely resembled their hair-loss patterns at the age of 45, based on memory. The median age of the approximately 39,000 men who responded to the survey was about 70.
After a median follow-up period of 2.8 years after they responded to the survey, about 1,140 cases of prostate cancer were diagnosed. About half of them were classified as aggressive.
About 53% of the total group recalled some form of male-pattern baldness at age 45. Overall, men who had any of the baldness patterns at the age of 45 didn’t have a statistically significant increased risk of any form of prostate cancer later in life, versus men with no baldness.
However, men with frontal plus moderate vertex balding—about 10% of the men in the study—had a 39% increased risk of aggressive prostate cancer versus men with no baldness. Researchers called this a statistically significant finding, meaning it wasn’t likely due to chance.
Still, a large majority of men in this group, and in the study’s other groups, weren’t diagnosed with any prostate cancer during the follow-up period.
If future studies confirm the link, “it may help the doctor-patient discussion about whether men should opt for prostate cancer screening,” said Michael Cook, an epidemiologist with the NCI and one of the study’s authors.
Until then, he cautioned, men shouldn’t be “overly concerned” about their baldness patterns, and shouldn’t alter their current practices and beliefs about prostate cancer screening.
The study had certain limitations, including relying on men’s recollection of their baldness patterns years earlier, and an under-representation of black men.
Prostate-cancer screening has become controversial in recent years amid evidence that it has led to overtreatment of the disease. The American Cancer Society estimates a man’s lifetime risk of developing prostate cancer is 15.3%, while the risk of dying from it is 2.7%.
Source: Wall Street Journal