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French medical researchers compared the records of 388 men being treated for prostate cancer with 281 healthy men and found that men who get prostate cancer were twice as likely to have started balding at 20.

Men May Benefit Later in Life from Regular Screening or Preventive Therapy

Prostate cancer is second only to lung cancer as a cause of cancer deaths in men, and kills approximately 250,000 men a year.

Men who only started losing their hair at 30, 40, or 50 were only equally likely to develop prostate cancer. The study found that any loss of hair at age 20 was correlated with future risk of cancer.

The French research team's findings, which were published in the journal Annals of Oncology, suggest that early treatment with a drug called finasteride (Proscar), which also prevents hair loss, might also prevent cancer. The drug works by blocking the conversion of testosterone into a chemical called dihydrotestosterone, which is thought to be responsible for both hair loss and uncontrolled growth of cells in the lining of the prostate, fueling the growth of prostate cancer.

A GlaxoSmithKline drug known as dutasteride (Avodart), acts in the same way, but in January 2011 the US Food and Drug Administration declined to approve it for use in men at higher risk for prostate cancer. So if you are a man who lost his hair long ago, what should you do?

What Men Can Do to Prevent Prostate Cancer

Experts are in general agreement that early detection leads to treatment that saves lives. Although the primary tool of early detection used to be the dreaded digital (finger) exam, nowadays doctors rely on blood tests for prostate specific antigen, or PSA, which measures inflammation in the prostate. There are two things every man needs to know about PSA levels:

1.    PSA levels go up after any kind of prostate level, including the finger exam in the doctor's office. If you are going to have both a digital exam and a blood draw for PSA, have the blood draw first.

2.    High PSA levels are not proof of cancer. Prostate infections can also cause high PSAs.

Generally, if there is a consistent pattern of rising PSA levels, over a cut off of 3 to 5, depending on the man's age, then doctors will do a needle biopsy to look for cancer before surgery. Men whose prostates are extremely enlarged may get expedited treatment.

For preventing prostate cancer, diet may help. Multiple studies indicate that lycopene, the red plant pigment found in tomatoes, watermelon, and shrimp, slows down the growth of prostate cancer cells. A serving of tomatoes every day will help. The lycopene is better absorbed into the bloodstream when the  tomatoes are served with at least a little oil, and dried and canned tomatoes have more lycopene than fresh.

Avoiding saturated fat, particularly the saturated fat found in red meat, butter, eggs, and cold cuts, also helps. Men who consume the most saturated fat tend to develop the most aggressive forms of prostate cancer.

  • Hsing AW, Comstock GW. Serological precursors of cancer: serum hormones and risk of subsequent prostate cancer. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. Jan-Feb 1993, 2(1):27-32.