Baldness, Prostate Cancer Link Confirmed In African-Americans

The link between early baldness and prostate cancer got a closer look in a study of over 500 African-American men published online today in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention. Lead author Charnita Zeigler-Johnson of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine said that the researchers wanted to focus on African-Americans because of their higher risk of prostate cancer compared to the general population.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer in men except for some skin cancers. It’s the second most common cause of cancer death in several groups of men including Caucasians, African-Americans, native Americans, and Hispanics. Approximately 200,000 men a year are diagnosed with the disease.

And African-Americans have been disproportionately affected. The National Cancer Institute said that African-American men are twice as likely to die of prostate cancer as Caucasians, possibly because many of them don’t get screened for the disease early or often enough.

As with any cancer, the earlier it’s found, the more effectively it can be treated.

Some earlier researchers linked early baldness with higher levels of testosterone, which can also stimulate prostate cancer. A French study suggested that men who started losing their hair before age 20 had twice the risk. But if they knew about their increased risk, they could start being screened at a younger age.

That study also said that there wasn’t any proven link between prostate cancer and going bald after age 30.

The new study was less encouraging since it found that the African-American men with “any” baldness had a 69 percent greater chance of developing prostate cancer. Losing hair from the front was a bigger warning sign than losing hair at the crown.

The take-home lesson for guys? As if going bald didn’t make you feel old enough, it’s probably a signal to ask your doctor when you should start getting screened for prostate cancer.

[photo courtesy Obiwancho and Wikipedia Commons]