Covid-19: Bald men up to 2.5 TIMES more likely to suffer severe cases, study warns
Severe cases of COVID-19 are 2.5 times more likely in men with male-pattern baldness than those retaining a full head of hair, researchers have warned.
Male-pattern baldness — or ‘androgenetic alopecia’ — is a common, genetically-determined form of hair loss that affects around 50 per cent of men aged over 50.
It commonly presents as a thinning of the hair in the temporal areas of the scalp before advancing to affect the crown as well.
Researchers found that male patients with a common biomarker linked to hair loss appeared to be significantly more susceptive to severe coronavirus infections.
Specifically, these men were more sensitive to male hormones known as androgens, which is also found in patients with androgenetic alopecia.
The findings of the study may open up new possibilities for new therapies — and possibly even a treatment — for COVID-19, the team said.
Severe cases of COVID-19 are 2.5 times more likely in men with male-pattern baldness than those retaining a full head of hair, a study has warned. Pictured: actor Bruce Willis
Male pattern baldness is controlled by variations in the androgen receptor (AR) gene, which regulates how sensitive the body is to androgens — the so-called ‘male hormones’ that include testosterone and androstenedione.
Androgen responses have also been linked to an enzyme known as TMPRSS2 which is thought to play a role in coronavirus infections.
The researchers were specifically motivated to study the link between the AR gene and severe COVID-19 after observing that a disproportionate number of men with androgenetic alopecia appeared to be being hospitalised with coronavirus.
Specifically, the team reported that some 79 per cent of men with severe COVID-19 had the condition, compared to the 31–53 per cent that would be expected for men of a similar age group.
In their study, the researchers measured the length of the polyglutamine repeat (or CAG repeat) region in the AR gene — which is linked to both androgen sensitivity and male-pattern baldness — in 65 men who had been hospitalised with COVID-19.
They found that the men whose AR CAG repeat was shorter than 22 nucleotides (the molecules than make up DNA) were significantly less likely to be admitted into intensive care with COVID-19 than those patients whose CAG count was 22 or higher.
‘Our data show that longer AR CAG scores are associated with more severe COVID-19 disease,’ said medical researcher Andy Goren of the California-based Applied Biology, Inc.
The findings, he continued, ‘indicate that AR CAG repeat length could be used as a biomarker to help identify male COVID-19 patients most at risk for ICU admissions.’
‘The identification of a biomarker connected with the androgen receptor is another piece of evidence highlighting the important role of androgens in COVID-19 disease severity,’ he concluded.
Male-pattern baldness is a common, genetically-determined form of hair loss that affects around 50 per cent of men aged over 50. It commonly presents as a thinning of the hair in the temporal areas of the scalp before advancing to affect the crown as well, as pictured
Dr Goren and his team are also exploring a promising new therapy for COVID-19 patients which uses a so-called androgen receptor antagonist to regulate the expression of TMPRSS2, which may lead to a treatment for coronavirus.
‘This research demonstrates the scientific value of dermatology by offering key insights into the role of genetics and its link to COVID disease,’ said EADV board member and Medical University of Warsaw dermatologist Lidia Rudnicka.
‘It is an excellent example of some of the pioneering abstracts being showcased at The EADV Spring Symposium this year,’ she added.
ABOUT MALE-PATTERN HAIR LOSS
Male pattern hair loss is the most common type of hair loss in men. It is also known as androgenetic alopecia.
It affects about 50 per cent of men over the age of 50.
What causes male pattern hair loss?
MPHL is caused by a combination of genetic and hormonal factors.
A hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT) causes a change in the hair follicles on the scalp.
The hairs produced by the affected follicles become progressively smaller in diameter, shorter in length and lighter in colour until eventually the follicles shrink completely and stop producing hair.
Is male pattern hair loss hereditary?
Yes. It is believed this can be inherited from either or both parents.
What are the symptoms of male pattern hair loss?
Men can become aware of scalp hair loss or a receding hairline at any time after puberty. There are usually no symptoms on the scalp itself.
Hair loss may cause significant psychological difficulties.
What does male pattern hair loss look like?
The usual pattern of hair loss is a receding frontal hairline and loss of hair from the top of the head.
Hairs in the affected areas are initially smaller in diameter, and shorter compared to hairs in unaffected areas, before they become absent.
How is male pattern hair loss diagnosed?
The diagnosis is usually based on the history of scalp hair loss on the front/top of the head or receding hairline, the pattern of hair loss and a family history of similar hair loss.
The skin on the scalp looks normal on examination.
Occasionally, blood tests may be carried out.
Can male pattern hair loss be cured?
No, there is no cure. However, it tends to progress very slowly, from several years to decades.
An earlier age of onset may lead to quicker progression.
How can male pattern hair loss be treated?
Options to tackle androgenetic alopecia include:
Licensed topical and oral treatments
Wigs and hair pieces
Self care (What can I do?)
An important function of hair is to protect the scalp from sunlight.
It is therefore important to protect any bald areas of your scalp from the sun to prevent sunburn and to reduce the chances of developing long-term sun damage.
You should cover any bald patches with sun block, your wig or a hat if you are going to be exposed to sunlight.