Baldness patterns, genetics, and risk for prostate cancer


According to a newly-published study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, certain types of male baldness are associated with a heightened risk for aggressive forms of prostate cancer (but this finding really needs to be confirmed in other studies).

In a retrospective analysis of data from men enrolled in the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer (PLCO) screening trial, Zhou et al. show that, compared to men with no baldness at age 45 years, frontal plus moderate vertex baldness at age 45 years

  • Was not significantly associated with overall risk for prostate cancer (hazard ratio [HR] = 1.19)
  • Was not significantly associated with risk for non-aggressive forms of prostate cancer (HR = 0.97)
  • Was significantly associated with risk for aggressive forms of prostate cancer (HR = 1.39)

There was no link between prostate cancer and other types of baldness.

The study was based on data from the 39,070 men enrolled in the PLCO trial who had no cancer diagnosis (excluding non-melanomatous skin cancer) at the start of the trial and who could recall their hair-loss patterns at age 45 years.

Apparently,

  • The average (median) trial follow-up period was relatively short, at 2.78 years.
  • About 53 percent of the men enrolled in the PLCO trial had frontal plus moderate vertex baldness at age 45.
  • There were 1,138 prostate cancer cases diagnosed among the men in the study.
  • The average age of the patients at diagnosis was 72 years.
  • 571/1,138 cases (50.2 percent) were considered to be aggressive (a biopsy Gleason score ≥ 7, and/or clinical stage III or greater, and/or fatal)
  • 18 percent of thee men exhibited frontal plus moderate vertex baldness.

Zhou et al. conclude that:

frontal plus moderate vertex baldness at age 45 years is associated with an increased risk of aggressive prostate cancer and supports the possibility of common pathophysiologic mechanisms.

Then in another study just published in Nature Genetics, researchers have identified “23 new genetic variants linked to a greater risk for prostate cancer.”

According to a media release from The Institute of Cancer Research in London, the data say more

about the effect of the genetic hand that men are dealt on their risk of prostate cancer. We know that there are a few major genes that are rare and significantly affect prostate cancer risk, but what we are now learning is that there are many other common genetic variants that individually have only a small effect on risk, but collectively can be very important.

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