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Prostate Cancer Risk Betrayed by Balding Pattern

Sep 16, 2014 01:54 PM EDT

Are you balding? How and where you are losing your hair could tell doctors how likely you are to develop prostate cancer, according to a new study.

The study, recently published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, details how a very specific pattern of balding in men is associated with a 40 percent increased risk of developing aggressive prostate cancer, compared to men who still have a full head of hair.

The study reportedly used a massive cohort of 39,070 men aged 55-74 from the US Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Trial. An analysis of their data revealed that men who had at least moderate balding both at the front and crown of the head were at a highest risk of developing fast-growing tumors at the prostate.

Interestingly, "we saw no increased risk for any form of prostate cancer in men with other hair-loss patterns," senior study author Michael B. Cool, of Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics at the National Cancer Institute, said in a statement.

He warned that this indicates that while there is a clear relationship between aggressive prostate cancer and baldness, the nature of this relationship is still very unclear.

"It's too soon to apply these findings to patient care," Cool admitted.

What's more, these new findings help support a previous theory that early baldness is a good indicator for elevated prostate cancer risk for African American men in particular.

A study published in 2013 in the journal Cancer, Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention found that the probability of high-stage and high-grade prostate cancer increased more than two-fold with frontal baldness. That same balding trait was six times as likely in males who were affected by prostate cancer before the age of 60, indicating a link with its early onset. Interestingly, these patterns were only significant in African Americans, at least according to data from the Study of Clinical Outcomes, Risk, and Ethnicity (SCORE), which took place from 1998 to 2010, and was isolated to the Philadelphia region.

Researchers are hoping that future studies will unveil a cause-and-effect relationship, explaining for any racial disparities, and more importantly, helping at-risk patients better prepare themselves and take preventative measures against the onset of prostate cancer.

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