Male/Female Pattern Baldness – How DNA Tests Can Predict It
Baldness can be caused by a hair loss condition known as androgenetic alopecia. This is a type of hair loss that occurs in both men and women. Male pattern baldness can start as early as teenage years, and progresses well on to the age of 60, where more than 50% of men have some degree of hair loss. The hair is lost from the temples, thinning as it goes towards the crown, leading to total or partial baldness. For women, the hair usually just thins out all over the head and it rarely leads to total baldness.
Science can predict the probability of one developing male pattern baldness. With the increasing popularity of DNA home test kits, one only needs to send a cheek cell sample from a swab to the lab and wait for the results to be sent.
Baldness has been linked to the androgen hormone known as dihydrotestosterone, and to the gene variant of the AR gene. This gene is responsible for the formation of the protein known as the androgen receptor. This is what causes the body to respond to dihydrotestosterone, among other forms of the androgen hormone. These hormones play a major role in the sexual development of males before birth and during puberty. Another key role is regulating the growth of hair in both men and women.
Hair usually sprouts from the follicles under the skin, and each strand takes two to six years to grow. After this period, the strands take a break for a couple of months, after which they break off and give room for a new strand of hair to grow. The AR variant causes the elevation of androgen levels in the body. This increase causes the hair to grow within shorter cycles, causing them to become shorter and thinner and breaking off before the normal cycle is complete. The growth of new strands also doesn’t happen frequently and is delayed.
This gene is hereditary, and any occurrence of baldness within the family automatically means that you are also at risk of experiencing hair loss. This variant can be passed down from both the maternal and paternal side of the family. The key gene associated with baldness is attached to the X chromosome. If your father is bald, you may also end up bald, and if your mother’s grandfather is bald, you could be the same by the age of 50.
Male pattern baldness has also been linked to conditions like hypertension, high cholesterol levels and in some cases, prostate cancer. This is probably as a result of the increased levels of the androgen hormone. Getting a DNA test can help you determine if you are at risk of becoming bald and possibly developing the conditions linked to it.
There is no cure for male pattern baldness. The treatments offered only delay its onset, because they mostly work to lower the levels of androgen. They also come with unpleasant side effects like a low libido and skin irritation. If your DNA test results show you that you could become bald, the best thing to do is shave your head, get used to the look and make regular visits to your doctor to watch your cholesterol levels and blood pressure.