Hair Loss and Its Links to Other Diseases

Although hereditary baldness is not generally viewed as a major health concern it may be associated with other health problems such as prostate enlargement, prostate cancer or hypertension. It is a proven fact that genetically determined hair loss in men and women is caused by the dihydrotestosterone (DHT) activity in the body when DHT causes shrinking of the susceptible hair follicles in the scalp. DHT also happens to be the main culprit in developing benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), causing prostates to grow. This brings in question of whether men suffering from male pattern baldness are more likely to develop prostatic problems such as BPH or prostate cancer than the average healthy man not affected by hair loss.

Hair Loss and BPH

Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is a non-malignant enlargement of the prostate induced by the DHT activity which stimulates the growth of prostate cells. It needs to be mentioned that neither BPH nor male pattern baldness are due to the overproduction of DHT (and therefore an overproduction of testosterone, the precursor of DHT) but due to susceptibility of their cells to the DHT effects. Even though the same drug, finasteride, is used to treat both conditions no clear link exists between these two conditions as some men may have hair follicles susceptible to the DHT attacks, some have susceptible prostate cells and some have both.

Hair Loss and Prostate Cancer

DHT is also thought to be one of the causes of prostate cancer and it can also be treated by antiandrogen drugs such as finasteride (Proscar). Several studies have been conducted to determine the link between hair loss and prostate cancer. Results are not conclusive, though. In one study it was determined that men who develop bald spots in the crown area are 1.5 times more likely to develop prostate cancer, especially high-grade prostate cancer, than those who do not lose their hair. The same study also showed that there was no link at all between frontal baldness and prostate cancer. In another study it was observed that the risk of developing prostate cancer is higher only in men who lose most of their hair in their twenties. No link was determined between male pattern baldness and prostate cancer in men who go bald after the age of 35. These results are not convincing enough to enable us to say that bald men are more likely to develop prostate cancer than men with no bald spots but they do not disperse this suspicion either.

Hair Loss and High Blood Pressure

The first FDA approved medication for treating hair loss in men and women was minoxidil (Rogaine). Minoxidil is a medication that was originally used to treat high blood pressure. Spironolactone is another hair loss drug suitable for treating female pattern baldness and it also happens to be a blood pressure lowering medication. These facts suggest that there might be an existing link between hair loss and elevated blood pressure if the same drugs can be used to treat both conditions. And in fact several studies have confirmed that hair loss might be associated with hypertension and resulting health problems such as coronary heart disease and it was proposed that both health conditions may be explained by the presence of hyperaldosteronism. It is thus thought that elevated aldosterone levels in patients with androgenetic alopecia may also explain the higher prevalence of hypertension. This link was determined in both male and more recently also in female patients (see the study results: Hypertension and aldosterone levels in women with early-onset androgenetic alopecia).