Health Links Connected to Male-Pattern Baldness

Receding hairline linked to prostate troubles, bald spots to heart trouble

For many men hair loss is simply a part of life that one has to deal with. A bald spot can show up early or later in life, but for many men, it simply is something that is going to occur. Whether its simple male-pattern baldness or a all-around hair exodus, hair loss can be aesthetically frustrating. However, it can also be a predictor of one’s own health as well.

Male pattern balding is a medical name for an affliction known as androgenic alopecia. Androgens are a hormone created by the male body (women possess a very small amount). The most commonly identified androgen is of course testosterone, however, there is a portion known as DHT (dihydrotestosterone).

The increase in DHT creates male-pattern baldness. “Men with male pattern baldness produce higher levels of the enzyme that converts testosterone to DHT,” says Southern Illinois School of Medicine urology professor Kevin T. McVary, M.D., FACS. “DHT is the hormone that causes you to grow hair on your back—and lose it on your head. It also causes your prostate to grow.”

Men who possess MPB are statistically more likely to experience benign prostatic hyperplasia, which is the term for an enlarged prostate. “In one Italian study, men with male pattern baldness were more likely to experience symptoms such as getting up at night, and urination urgency and frequency.” That’s why MPB is “potentially a way to identify men at risk for symptoms of BPH.”

There is also an increased cancer of prostate cancer itself. “Our study showed increased odds of prostate cancer with baldness by age 30,” says Charnita M. Zeigler-Johnson, Ph.D., an epidemiologist at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. But experts remind men that it is a statistical link and not a causal link as of now.

Recent studies found that men who experience MPB are also at higher risk for heart-related afflictions. A Japanese meta-analysis that used over 40,000 examples found that there is a link. However, the link was found in bald-spot baldness and not directly with the receding hairline. “These studies found an association,” says cardiologist Nieca Goldberg, M.D., a clinical associate professor at the NYU School of Medicine. “but it’s far from an established risk factor, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol.”

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