Male pattern baldness is associated with an increased risk of
heart disease, but only if the baldness is on the crown of the head,
a new meta-analysis of previous studies reports.
Among men with receding hairlines, no significant increase in
risk was found.
Male pattern baldness is an inherited condition that affects
about 30 to 40 percent of adult men -- a proportion that jumps to 80
percent by age 80, according to background information presented in
Previous studies have associated baldness with an increased risk
of heart disease, but the strength of the risk varied widely. The
Japanese authors of this new meta-analysis, which was published
Wednesday in the online journal BMJ Open, decided to take a closer
look at all the earlier research to see if they could clarify the
relationship between male hair loss and heart disease.
What they found was interesting, but not definitive.
Focusing on six studies
The researchers searched Medline and the Cochrane Library
databases for studies published on the topic between 1950 and 2012.
They found 850 possibilities, but only six studies, involving about
37,000 men living in the United States and Europe, met their strict
criteria and were included in the meta-analysis. These studies had
been published between 1993 and 2008.
Three of the studies were cohort studies: They tracked men for up
to 11 years. An analysis of those studies revealed that men with
severe baldness on the top (vertex) of their head had a 32 percent
increased risk of developing heart disease compared to men who had
retained their hair. Among younger men (those who had not yet
reached their 61st birthday), the risk was slightly greater: 44
percent. The percentages were reached after adjusting for other
heart-disease risk factors, such as smoking, high blood pressure and
The analysis also found that the more severe the baldness, the
greater the risk.
The other three studies were case-control studies, which are
generally considered less rigorous than cohort ones. They compared
the incidence of heart disease among bald men and non-bald men. An
analysis of those studies revealed that bald or balding men were 70
percent more likely to have heart disease. In younger age groups,
the risk jumped to 84 percent.
A possible marker
The reasons for the association between baldness and heart
disease are unclear, the meta-analysis authors point out. It may be,
however, that top-of-the-head baldness is a marker for insulin
resistance or chronic inflammation or some other factor that
promotes heart disease. …