The first and best way to beat any kind of cancer? Catch it early.
Fortunately, scientists have discovered a new indicator that can give guys a (pardon the expression) heads-up on one particular form of cancer before it progresses too far: Men who go bald early—and dramatically—have a significantly higher risk of developing prostate cancer, scientists at the University of Toronto have found.
The new study surveyed almost 400 men who visited the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre for prostate biopsies, asking them if they had any severe balding before age 30 and/or at the present time, and having them place themselves on the Norwood scale, which rates the progression of balding from 0 for “none” to 4 for “severe.”
In total, about half of all the men who came in for biopsies ended up being diagnosed with cancer. Among them, the data showed, men who scored a 3 on the Norwood scale were about three times as likely to have a malignant tumor. And—prepare to shudder—those who scored a 4 on the scale were three times as likely to have a more aggressive form of the cancer.
Now, let's get one thing clear: Being bald doesn’t cause cancer, which we’re sure comes as a relief to any hair-challenged guys out there. But there are definite links between the two. For example, the high levels of testosterone that often lead to premature balding can also lead to an increased risk of prostate cancer, said study co-author Neil Fleshner, M.D., in a press release.
He even went so far as to suggest that baldness should be a deciding factor in whether or not a doctor performs a biopsy—a painful procedure for the patient—to test for malignancy in lumps or tumors found during a prostate exam.
If a patient has early, dramatic baldness, Fleshner explained, “those people are particularly at risk” for prostate cancer, so a physician who’s on the fence about a biopsy “may want to take into account the added risk factor of the man’s head of hair.”
Are you experiencing early, dramatic baldness? If so, be as proactive and vigilant as possible about getting screened for prostate cancer. This is one job you really don’t want to sit down on.