Men who go bald by the age of 40 are more likely to get prostate cancer
Increased risk may be due higher levels of testosterone
Hormone can trigger the development of cancerous cells but also inhibit hair growth
13:54 GMT, 22 January 2013
14:10 GMT, 22 January 2013
Men who go bald by the time they reach 40 may be at increased of getting prostate cancer at an early age, according to new research.
Scientists who studied hair loss patterns in nearly 10,000 men found those who experienced receding hair lines early in life were more likely to suffer a tumour later on.
The findings, by a team of researchers in Australia, support earlier studies suggesting baldness could be linked with prostate cancer.
Men who experience receding hair lines early in life are more likely to suffer prostate cancer
The reasons why are not clear but previous studies indicate it may be due to higher levels of testosterone, the hormone which can trigger the development of cancerous cells but also inhibit hair growth.
In baldness, it's thought high testosterone levels have an adverse affect on the hair follicles, acting on a hormone receptor to slow down hair production.
Nearly 32,000 cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed every year in the UK and 10,000 men die from it – the equivalent of more than one an hour.
Experts at the Cancer Council of Victoria in Australia monitored 9,448 men who were taking part in a long-term health study, called the Melbourne Collaborative Cohort study.
The men, aged between 40 and 69 when the project began in the early nineties, were asked to score how much hair they had lost at the age of 20 and at the age of 40.
Prostate cancer (cells pictured) may be due to higher levels of testosterone. The hormone can trigger the development of cancerous cells but also inhibit hair growth
The researchers then tracked them to see how many went on to develop prostate cancer later in life and at what age.
The results, published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, showed men who were mostly bald at 40 were significantly more likely to develop early-onset cancer, which for some could be in their fifties or sixties.
The findings support a similar investigation last year, in which scientists compared men undergoing prostate biopsies for suspected cancers and found bald ones were much more likely to be diagnosed with a tumour.
Other research shows bald men are also more at risk of another prostate condition, called benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH.
This is where the prostate becomes enlarged, usually as a result of the ageing process, until it presses on the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the body.
The first sign of the condition, which affects around 2.5 million men in the UK, is usually trouble passing urine, or difficulty starting even when the bladder is full.
In a report on their findings the Australian team said: 'Both prostate cancer and hair loss are strongly age-related conditions that are considered to be androgen (hormone) dependent.
'We found that baldness at the age of 40 might be a marker of increased risk of early-onset prostate cancer.'