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Bald men half as likely to get prostate cancer: study

Monday, March 22, 2010
Image: Getty
Men who start to go bald before 30 are up to 45 percent less likely to have prostate cancer later in life, scientists in the US have found.

Researchers from the University of Washington studied 2000 men aged between 40 and 47, half of whom had suffered prostate cancer.

They compared the rate of tumours in those who had remembered losing their hair at a young age, compared to those who had had not suffered hair loss.

The study found that men who had started to thin out on top earlier were almost half as likely to develop prostate cancer, which contradicts previous research, the UK's Daily Mail reported.

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Baldness is caused when hair follicles shrink after being exposed to too much dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a chemical produced by the male hormone testosterone.

Experts believe that men with increased levels of testosterone are more likely to become bald at a younger age, particularly if baldness runs in the family.

By age 30, approximately 25 to 30 percent of men will have some baldness, researchers believe. By the age of 50, half of all men suffer significant hair loss.

"At first, the findings were surprising," said Professor Jonathon Wright, an expert in prostate cancer at the University of Washington in Seattle.

"But we found that early onset baldness was associated with a 29 percent to 45 percent reduction in the relative risk of prostate cancer."

Once diagnosed, prostate cancer sufferers are often given drugs to reduce testosterone levels because the hormone can accelerate the growth of tumours once they develop. But the research suggests that high levels of testosterone at an early age may help prevent the disease.

The findings were published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology.

According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia, each year close to 3300 men die of prostate cancer, which is equal to the number of women who die from breast cancer. Around 20,000 new cases are diagnosed in Australia every year.

By the age of 85, a man has a one in five risk of developing prostate cancer.

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