Study confirms link between baldness and skin cancer


Thursday, 05 October, 2023

Study confirms link between baldness and skin cancer

An extensive genetic analysis examining a link between balding and skin cancers has found that people with hair loss can be more susceptible to skin cancers due to greater sun exposure, and not testosterone levels which are a major driver of male pattern baldness.

Lead researcher Dr Jue-Sheng Ong from the QIMR Berghofer said, “We sought to find clear answers, and unsurprisingly, it appears the more commonsense explanation is the correct one. Balding men are more susceptible to sun damage and skin cancer because they have less hair protection.”

Researchers from the QIMR Berghofer analysed genetic data from more than 29,000 cases of melanoma and keratinocyte cancer, available from the QSkin Study and Melanoma Institute Australia. They also incorporated large-scale genetic findings on testosterone and hair loss, to establish whether genes that predispose people to high testosterone or balding affect skin cancer risk.

Findings have been published in the journal Nature Communications.

“Interestingly, we did find an overlap between genes which cause hair loss and genes which affect skin colour or pigmentation. Skin colour is a known risk factor for skin cancer, and these results suggest pigmentation may also contribute to this increased risk in people with hair loss.

“However, the majority of this relationship between balding and skin cancer is still explained by increased sun exposure.”

The genetic findings were supported by further analysis of skin cancers in people with hair loss, categorised by anatomical region. It found that balding is associated with an elevated risk of developing skin cancers in the head and neck region.

“Australia has the highest melanoma rates in the world, with one person diagnosed every 30 minutes, so greater understanding of which groups in the population are at increased risk helps us target them with preventative and early detection strategies,” Melanoma Institute Australia Co-Medical Directors Professor Richard Scolyer AO and Professor Georgina Long AO said.

See the study as well as the video explainer for more information.

Image credit: iStock.com/deeepblue

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