Hair loss in 20s suggested to be linked to increased prostate risk
A small French study has suggested a possible link between early balding and an increased risk of prostate cancer in later life.
But Cancer Research UK said the results should be treated with caution, particularly as previous studies have suggested that the opposite may be true.
The French research, published in the Annals of Oncology, compared 388 prostate cancer patients with 281 cancer-free men.
Participants were asked to recall any hair loss they had at ages 20, 30 and 40 on four pictures depicting different balding patterns.
The researchers also recorded details of the men's history of prostate cancer.
They observed that men with prostate cancer were twice as likely to have started going bald when they were 20 as those who were cancer-free.
Men who first experienced hair loss when they were 30 or 40 did not appear to have an increased risk of prostate cancer.
The researchers also noted that men with early hair loss did not tend to be diagnosed with prostate cancer at a younger age than those who started balding in their 30s or later.
Professor Philippe Giraud, professor of radiation oncology at the Paris Descartes University and the European Georges Pompidou Hospital, said: "At present there is no hard evidence to show any benefit from screening the general population for prostate cancer.
"We need a way of identifying those men who are at high risk of developing the disease and who could be targeted for screening and also considered for chemo-prevention using anti-androgenic drugs such as finasteride. Balding at the age of 20 may be one of these easily identifiable risk factors and more work needs to be done now to confirm this."
But Cancer Research UK said the study is not enough to prove a link between early hair loss and prostate cancer.
Oliver Childs, senior science information officer at Cancer Research UK, said: "This small study doesn't provide enough evidence to confirm whether male pattern baldness is associated with prostate cancer, especially as previous research has actually shown the opposite.
"The results hinge on asking men who were on average in their mid-60s to remember whether their hair was thinning from their 20s onwards - not the most reliable way to carry out an experiment of this kind."