Heads-Up on Prostate Cancer Risks

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Heads-Up on Prostate Cancer Risks

Early balding may point to increased prostate cancer risk

Research cannot explain why one man develops prostate cancer and another does not, but early balding may point to increased prostate cancer risk.

A study by French researchers of nearly 700 men found that men with prostate cancer were twice as likely as healthy men to have started losing their hair at age 20. The same correlation did not hold for men who began balding in their 30s or 40s.

Male-pattern balding is tied to changes in male hormones, and scientists have linked prostate cancer to male hormones as well. More studies are needed, but the researchers suggested that men who begin losing hair at a young age might benefit from earlier prostate screening.

The average age at diagnosis is 70, so experts suggest that most men talk with their doctor about screening starting around age 50. While there is no known exact cause of prostate cancer, researchers say that these factors may increase risk:

FAMILY HISTORY. A man's risk is higher if his father, son or brother had prostate cancer before age 65. Many physicians suggest these men start regular screening in their early to mid-40s.

RACE. African-American men over age 40 have the highest rate of prostate cancer; physicians often suggest they also start getting tested in their early to mid-40s.

DIET. Some studies suggest that men who eat a lot of red meat or high-fat dairy products may be at increased risk, although these men also typically eat fewer vegetables, so more study is needed to understand the source of risk.

Talk to your doctor about ways to prevent prostate cancer and to plan checkups that are right for you.

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