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Going bald prematurely (androgenetic alopecia or male pattern baldness) is disturbing enough for many men, but now researchers say they have confirmed that losing your hair puts you at higher risk for developing an enlarged prostate, or benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Both premature balding and BPH have something in common: a hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
Androgenetic alopecia, the most common form of baldness, has a hereditary component and progresses when not treated. However, DHT also plays a significant role, because hair loss is associated with the hair follicles’ sensitivity to DHT.
More specifically, the dermal papilla of the hair follicle is responsible for hair growth. The dermal papilla have many androgen receptors, and when DHT connects with these papilla, it interferes with the absorption of nutrients the hair follicles need, which then can result in hair loss. In addition, DHT is associated with miniaturization, which is the progressive shrinking of hair follicles over time.
Among the causes of and risk factors for BPH is the influence of DHT on the prostate. When an enzyme called 5-alpha-reductase converts testosterone into DHT, the DHT promotes the growth of prostate cells. As men get older, DHT levels in many men rise, and the accumulation of DHT can lead to an enlarged prostate.
Is going bald a risk factor for an enlarged prostate?
In this latest study, which appeared in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 87 men were evaluated: 45 who had a diagnosis of premature baldness and 42 healthy controls. Investigators measured prostate volume, urinary flow, hormone levels, and the International Index of Erectile Function.
The results led the researchers to confirm a clear relationship between premature balding and an enlarged prostate, and the culprit in both cases is DHT.
Arias-Santiago S et al. Androgenetic alopecia as an early marker of benign prostatic hyperplasia. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 2012 Mar; 66(3):401-8