Several studies suggest a strong connection between baldness, prostate, treatment drugs and cancer. According to randomly controlled studies, drugs known as 5 Alpha Reductase Inhibitors; or 5-ARI, that are used to treat the baldness and enlarged prostate can actually increase your chances of developing prostate cancer.
Even worse is that apparently the type of cancer that might be caused by these BPG and male hair loss drugs is one called High Grade Prostate Cancer, which is a much more aggressive and lethal form of the disease.
Based on these terrifying study results, the FDA has revised the labels on these drugs to reflect the new findings.
Here are the 5 Alpha Reductase Inhibitor drugs:
- Propecia: Used to treat male pattern hair loss
- Proscar: Used to treat Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia
- Jalyn: Used to treat Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia
- Avodart: Used to treat Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia
Now, it might not be a desirable state of affairs to watch your hair going down the shower drain at an alarming rate, but it won’t kill you.
Ditto for Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia, commonly referred to as an enlarged prostate. This can cause more frequent urination and occasional bladder problems, but it is not cancer and uncomfortable, inconvenient and even annoying as the symptoms of BPH may be—you won’t die from it.
Once again, we see a situation with prescription drugs where the cure may be far worse than the conditions they were treating. Many men are turning to natural remedies for their BPH and baldness such as saw palmetto and stinging nettle which do not seem to increase cancer risks.
Although testosterone acts directly on many tissues, some of its least desirable effects do not occur until it is converted into another androgen, dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT acts on the skin, sometimes producing acne, and on the hair follicles, putting hair on the chest but often taking it off the scalp. Male-pattern baldness (androgenic alopecia) is one thing, prostate disease quite another — but DHT also stimulates the growth of prostate cells, producing normal growth in adolescence but contributing to benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) in many older men.
Scientists have taken advantage of the link between male pattern baldness and BPH to develop a single medication for both conditions. Finasteride blocks the conversion of testosterone to DHT; when taken in a 5-mg dose (Proscar), it helps some men with BPH, and in a 1-mg dose (Propecia), it helps some men with androgenic alopecia. A newer drug, dutasteride (Avodart), has a similar effect on BPH but is not yet approved for baldness.
Is there another dark side to the DHT connection? Since DHT drives both hair loss and the growth of prostate cells, do men with androgenic alopecia have an increased risk of prostate cancer? Perhaps, according to scientists in Australia. They evaluated 1,446 men who were diagnosed with moderate to high-grade prostate cancer before age 70 and compared them with 1,390 men of the same age who were free of the disease. Even in the era of molecular biology, the research tool was simplicity itself. The researchers looked at each man’s scalp, then used sophisticated statistical methods to see if there was a link between hair loss and prostate cancer. They found that men with bald spots at the top of their heads (vertex baldness) were one and a half times more likely to have prostate cancer than those without bald spots. The association was particularly strong for men who were diagnosed with high-grade prostate cancer at 60–69 years of age.
A US government reported study by the national institutes of health
Both benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and male pattern baldness (androgenic alopecia) share the pathogenesis of an androgen-dependent disorder and afflict a large population of elderly men with chronobiologic progress. However, it is unclear whether these diseases are related epidemiologically. We evaluated the association of frequency and severity of male pattern baldness between patients with BPH and a control group.
A total of 225 patients with BPH (mean age 69.3 +/- 6.5 years) and 1 60 controls (mean age 68.5 +/- 6.4 years), all over 60 years of age, were included in this study. The estimation of baldness severity was based on Norwood’s classification (grade I to VII). The International Prostate Symptom Score (IPSS) and genetic tendency for baldness were also evaluated. The difference between IPSS and grade of baldness between the two groups was analyzed by the Mann-Whitney test and the frequency of inherited baldness was compared by the chi-square test. Correlation between severity of baldness and IPSS in each group was estimated by Spearman’s rank correlation method.
The patients with BPH had an apparently higher grade of male pattern baldness in comparison with that of controls (median value of grade IV versus III, P <0.001). The proportion of men with male pattern baldness of grade IV or higher in the BPH group was significantly larger than that of controls (53.8% versus 36.9%, P <0.01). There was a greater frequency of inherited baldness in the BPH group than in the controls (31.6% versus 12.5%, P <0.001). No significant correlation was noted between baldness severity and IPSS in either group.
This study demonstrates a strong association of BPH with male pattern baldness.
Male-pattern baldness, which accounts for almost all hair loss in men, results from a genetic malfunction that causes hair follicles to become more susceptible and shrink in the presence of dihydrotestosterone. Over time, the affected hair follicles stop producing hair. The chemical 5-alpha-reductase also plays a key role in the development of BPH. When testosterone is converted to the more potent dihydrotestosterone by 5-alpha-reductase, it can cause the prostate to enlarge, eventually leading to BPH and LUTS.
Prostatic enlargement that causes lower urinary complaints is often treated with finasteride (Proscar), a 5-mg dose taken daily which blocks 5-alpha-reductase and very slowly starts to shrink the prostate. Men with complaints of male pattern baldness are also treated with finasteride (Propecia), but in a 1-mg dose that effectively lowers dihydrotestosterone levels in the scalp by as much as 60% when taken daily, helping to stop hair loss in more than 85% of the men who use the drug.
With the link between male pattern baldness and BPH noted, the Spanish researchers wanted to know if the balding men also had signs of BPH, even though they may not have noticed symptoms. So they enrolled 30 men with early-onset male pattern baldness and compared several variables with a control group of men who had full heads of hair.
What they found through ultrasound examinations was that the balding men had prostates that were 34% larger than those of the men with full heads of hair; that their urine flow was 32% less; their prostate symptom scores significantly higher, and PSA scores also higher. All of these factors led the researchers to conclude that the balding men had early-stage BPH — and they didn’t know it.
This study suggests that patients with male-pattern baldness should talk with their doctors about any urinary symptoms they may be experiencing so they can take preventive measures.
According to the Spanish researchers, screenings for urinary symptoms in men with androgenetic alopecia (AGA, more commonly known as male-pattern baldness) could help with earlier identification of those who could benefit from treatment to prevent benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS). Their rationale: Men with male-pattern baldness have higher than normal levels of 5-alpha-reductase, the chemical that converts the male hormone testosterone into dihydrotestosterone, the active form of male hormone within the prostate.