Baldness May Be More than Skin Deep

The tenth study of its kind shows that male pattern baldness may be an indicator for enlarged prostate and prostate cancer.

When my surgeon first told me that my disease was metastatic and outlined the list of negative side effects that could go along with my androgen deprivation therapy (the blockage of testosterone production), I already knew the list from my work at the Foundation. Thus he was a bit surprised when, asked if I had any questions, I enthusiastically asked: So, I can expect to grow some of the hair on head back, right?

He asked how I knew that might be one positive side effect. I told him that I had started losing my crown of follicles in my mid-thirties and had been using Rogaine to mitigate my losses and actually regain some of what I had lost many years back. I also said that unlike many, I actually read the packaging inserts and understood the role of testosterone and something called dihydrotesterone in the balding process. Rogaine works by acting against the balding action of dihydrotesterone.

Little did I know then…

Now, mounting evidence suggests that male baldness by the age of 40 can be an indicator for increased risk for being diagnosed with an enlarged prostate (benign hyperplasia) or prostate cancer. The reason: high levels of testosterone create high levels of dihydrotestosterone, causing male pattern baldness. High levels of testosterone can also affect prostate stem cells in men’s late teens and early twenties, turning them into future cancer cells, and fuel the growth and progression of prostate cancer.

With all the television ads for testosterone replacement drugs that are now on the television you might remember hearing the required list warnings: “Taking X may increase your risk of prostate cancer or an enlarged prostate… Do not take X if currently have prostate cancer… Talk to your doctor before taking X if you have a family history of prostate cancer…” 

In the tenth study focusing on baldness, the Cancer Center in Victoria, Australia monitored 9,448 men in a long-term health study. The results, published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, showed that men, mostly bald by 40, were significantly more likely to develop early-onset cancer, many of them in their fifties or sixties. They were also more likely to be diagnosed with a tumor upon biopsy. Other studies have shown that bald men are also at higher risk for having an enlarged prostate.

I share this as a data point for discussion for men over 40 as they discuss PSA and make an informed decision as to when they should begin using the PSA test.

For me, that ship has long left the dock. But, as I wean off my ADT using Lurpon, I have already started using Rogaine once again. Knowing what I learned about the cause of male hair loss, I hope to have a jump start on keeping some of the hair I gained during treatment.

Of course in the grand scheme of things, the battle to keep hair would be an easy one to lose. Que sera, sera… I’m still ahead in the primary fight and that’s a good thing.

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5 Responses to “Baldness May Be More than Skin Deep”

  1. I am so glad to see you posting again! After your experience with androgen deprivation therapy I was concerned when told I needed to start it 6 weeks ago. Took two shots for the first treatment and one a month later…I have had no side effects except I may be less stressed about work…not a bad thing! Maybe I was not all right to begin with but now with testosterone in the 20″s and I still feel good makes me wonder! By the way…I started loosing hair in my twenties so there my be something to this male pattern baldness thing. Will be looking forward to your future posts.

    • Great to hear your testosterone is down with no side effects! It affects each man so differently.

      Good luck and good health! — Dan

      • Hi Dan, I went to see my doctor when I was 21 and asked why my hair was so thin, he said straight out that I was going bald. The doctor was a man in his early thirties and he whipped off his toupee and showed me he was completely bereft of hair. As this was in the mid 60`s when all had long hair, this was a real downer, but this doctor`s kind attitude stood me in good stead and I never worried about hair loss again, Unfortunately six years ago I got prostate cancer but following Zoladex and radio therapy I am in good health now, although my latest psa test has shown a slight rise. I still feel good and wish you all good things, Peter
        from Scotland

  2. Hah!

    When I was in junior high school (middle school) I remember in a science class, the teacher went around the room and identified which of the boys would likely lose their hair as they became adults–he did it by analyzing our developing “widow’s peak.: I was one of the chosen ones, and in my middle twenties, I started to lose hair on top of my head.

    Of seven brothers in my family, only two of us experienced pattern baldness,four of us got pc or colon cancer; one of the two balding, the second oldest, got no cancer.

    These kinds of “risk” factors come with so many exceptions it’s no wonder even the medicos can’t decide which is the best course of action.

    In any case, even with balding, the rest of my body is a veritable bear-like jungle–if I don’t shave the back of my neck once a week, you wouldn’t know that I had a back of my neck!

    On Lupron, all my body hair began to vanish, right down to my toes. More than one year after stopping Lupron, all my hair has returned as before, except on my head, of course. Next testosterone/psa test is April. I am certain my testosterone level has made it almost back to what has been normal for me. The real scare is will that also be the case for my psa levels…

    Great to have you back, Dan.

  3. My diagnosis was about 10 years ago. Prostate removal followed by 37 rounds of radiation. A few years later PSA began to rise and was put on the hormone therapy for a couple years. It worked fine but after stopping the therapy for a year or so PSA again was rising and again went on the hormone therapy last Sept. Will see the doc in March and find out how it’s going.
    Other than all this I’m feeling fine.