It could happen to any of us: the medical pros and cons of balding


It’s one of the more unpleasant changes to our bodies but both males and females can suffer – we’re talking about balding. It’s not always a sign of ageing either, with some experiencing thinning in their 20s and 30s. 30 per cent of men are balding by 30, 40 per cent by 40, 50 per cent by 50 and so on, so it will affect most males by the time they’re 80. Women have a bit more luck when it comes to shedding hair as it is associated with high levels of testosterone, found more prominently in men.

While there are advances in science and hair pieces ala Bert Newton’s, there can be some health risks associated with balding. Sometimes we get so frustrated that we want to pull our hair out (no we don’t!) but at least it’s not a fatal condition…or is it? Research last week has shown links between male-pattern baldness and an aggressive form of prostate cancer. The Journal of Clinical Oncology has conducted a study that found men with thinning hair on their crown were more likely to develop a tumour in their prostate than those with a mane … 40 per cent more likely.

Chris Eden, a urologist at Guildford’s Royal Surrey County Hospital confirmed that this “link between male-pattern baldness and prostate cancer … has been known for some time”.

This is because hereditary male-pattern baldness and testosterone are linked – more testosterone means hair follicles become thinner and weaker before stopping hair production – and testosterone and prostate cancer are linked.

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It’s not a new connection between baldness and health (in men and women) but it’s important to have more research to support this notion.

While there aren’t any definitive figures on Australian women’s hair loss due to its different causes and undiagnosed cases, it can be a sign that something is not right health-wise, such as low iron levels, immune deficiencies or hormone imbalances (menopause etc.).

So what else does thinning say about our health? Men are already more likely to suffer from heart disease – links between male hormones and blood/heart health were found in a 2013 study published in the BMJ Open Journal.

It’s not all bad news for everyone with non-luscious locks: high levels of testosterone can have their benefits, such as protecting against testicular tumours. A lack of testosterone can mean more of a libido and fewer erections, so men who are balding might be hairless but they are happier in the bedroom. For women, hair loss is much more treatable than in men and hair can often be regenerated naturally without expensive hair loss treatments.