A specific kind of baldness is linked to aggressive prostate cancer, finds a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
Researchers analyzed the self-reported hair-loss patterns from 39,000 men enrolled in the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Trial and found that men who recalled having male pattern baldness—characterized by a receding hairline and thinning hair on the crown—at age 45 had a 40% increased risk of developing aggressive prostate cancer when they got older compared to men who weren’t balding. No type of baldness was linked to a higher rate of overall cancer, and male-pattern baldness was not linked to non-aggressive prostate cancer.
Michael Cook, senior study author and investigator in the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics at the National Cancer Institute, suspects the link is due to male androgens, or sex hormones. Testosterone and an androgen derived from testosterone, called dihydrotestosterone (DHT), are linked to both male-pattern baldness and to the progression of prostate cancer, he told TIME. Genetics might also come into play. “There is some overlapping regions of the genome that may be implicated in both of these conditions, but it’s too early to say whether these are the exact same genes,” Cook says.
Up to 70% of men experience male-pattern baldness at some point, and men shouldn’t panic if they too experience hair loss. “You should not in any way be additionally concerned of your individual prostate cancer risk,” he cautions. “That’s because although these results are [interesting] and may indicate that there’s some central underlying exposure—which may be androgens—we cannot say that for certain.”
If you’re concerned, as always, talk to your doctor.