Under the Hood

Risk Of Hair Loss For Men: Major Study IDs Genes To Predict Odds Of Male Pattern Baldness

Finding what genes are at the root of hair loss in men could lead to treatments that not only put fur back on top but also prevent serious diseases. Science is getting closer to those treatments with the more than 250 new genetic variants that have just been linked to severe hair loss.

A study in PLOS Genetics says the genes were identified by analyzing data from more than 52,000 men between 40 and 69 years old, and can be used to predict baldness. About 14 percent of the genes could be traced to the X chromosome — one of the sex-determining chromosomes — that the men received from their mother at conception. However, those genes on the X chromosome were more closely associated with early-onset baldness as opposed to baldness later in life.

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Perhaps the most well-known side effect of balding is emotional: “Living with male pattern baldness can be stressful and embarrassing,” the study says. “Male pattern baldness affects around 80 percent of men by the age of 80 years, and it can have substantial psychosocial impacts via changes in self-consciousness and social perceptions.”

bald-742823_1280 Cracking the genetic code for baldness could also prevent serious diseases in men. Pixabay, public domain

But there is more to baldness than appearance. Some studies have linked hormone-driven balding with an increased risk of prostate cancer and heart disease. According to Harvard Medical School, that link seems location-specific, affecting men with bald spots on top of their heads as opposed to receding hairlines.

The new findings also suggest physical traits that are genetically associated with baldness. According to the study, for instance, there is “a degree of overlap” between hair and height, with balder men tending toward a shorter stature. Those same men also had fewer children and a lower risk of bipolar disorder.

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“We are still a long way from making an accurate prediction for an individual’s hair loss pattern,” principal study investigator Riccardo Marioni, of the University of Edinburgh, said in a statement from the Public Library of Science posted on Medical Xpress. “However, these results take us one step closer. The findings pave the way for an improved understanding of the genetic causes of hair loss.”

Source: Marioni RE, Hagenaars SP, Hill WD, et al. Genetic prediction of male pattern baldness. PLOS Genetics. 2017.

See also:

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