Men who start to lose their hair by age 20 — a syndrome known as pattern baldness — are twice as likely to develop prostate cancer later in life, according to a new study.
Prostate cancer is the commonest non-skin cancer among men worldwide and, after lung tumours, is the second biggest cause of death from cancer among men in Australia.
Earlier research has shown that sex hormones called androgens play a key role in the development of both pattern baldness and cancer of the prostate, a walnut-sized gland near the bladder crucial to the male reproductive system.
Men who did not start to lose their hair until age 30 or 40 showed no increased risk compared to the control group of developing the Prostate Disease
But for those who had early-onset balding — a condition known to doctors as androgenic alopecia — at age 20, the risk doubled.
To probe further, a team of scientists led by Philippe Giraud of Georges Pompidou European Hospital in Paris asked 669 men — 338 of whom had a history of prostate cancer — how bald they were at ages 20, 30 and 40, using standardised images for reference
The findings suggest that premature balding could become a useful marker to help doctors screen for the disease, he said.
Another study published last year showed that finger patterns could also help identify which men should undergo regular screening.
Men whose index fingers are longer than their ring, or fourth, fingers run a significantly lower risk of prostate cancer, the study found.