Study Shows a Certain Type of Baldness at Age 45 May Increase the Risk for Aggressive Prostate Cancer

September 16, 2014
Amber Bauer, ASCO staff

Men in their forties who are going bald at the front and top (crown) of their head may have more concerns than just losing their hair. According to a study published online yesterday in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, men with this specific type of baldness at age 45 have a 40% increased risk of developing faster-growing, aggressive prostate cancer later in life than men with no baldness at that age. However, baldness was not linked to an increased risk of non-aggressive prostate cancer in this study.

These findings support earlier research that has suggested male pattern baldness and prostate cancer may share some of the same underlying risk factors . One of these risk factors may be high levels of male sex hormones called androgens. Elevated androgen levels play an important role in prostate cancer development and spread. The fact that male pattern baldness is also accompanied by higher androgen levels suggests that these male hormones may link frontal and crown balding with aggressive prostate cancer, but more research needs to be done to confirm this.

During this study, the researchers asked a group of 39,070 men between the ages of 55 and 74 to remember their hair-loss patterns at age 45 using a series of pictures. Over the next several years, 1,138 participants were diagnosed with prostate cancer, and half of these cancers (51%) were considered aggressive or fast-growing. On average, these men were diagnosed at age 72.

“Previous research linking baldness and prostate cancer has been inconclusive, but this large study suggests a significant link between high-risk prostate cancer and hair loss—and suggests that men with hair loss may need to be followed more closely,” said ASCO expert Charles Ryan, MD, Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of California in San Francisco. “More evidence is needed, however, before we can routinely consider baldness in prostate cancer screening recommendations.”