Do family factors & genes affect your chances of suffering from baldness?
Posted on 18th June 2018 at 08:26
Even in this era of modern medical science, myths about hair loss are still extremely common. Androgenetic alopecia (or male pattern baldness, as it is more commonly known) affects men at different ages. Some start to suffer as young as their early twenties, while many more are affected by the time they reach their thirties.
Many people have observed that male pattern baldness appears to run in families, and that's certainly true. Doctors and scientists still haven't worked out exactly why male pattern baldness strikes some men, but there is a genetic element at play.
The root cause of male pattern baldness
Doctors and scientists still haven't completely got to the bottom of baldness, but it appears that certain men have a genetic predisposition to the condition. This genetic predisposition affects the hair follicles: some men have follicles that are especially vulnerable to certain hormones. In particular, a vulnerability to testosterone can cause problems, leading to a gradual reduction in hair growth. Over time, hair growth diminishes and eventually stops altogether.
The bad news is that this genetic vulnerability appears to be hard-wired into our DNA. It's natural to look at male relatives who have already lost their hair and start to panic - but the genetic side of things is a bit more complex than that.
Can the Mother take the blame?
Men with bald fathers may well be cursing their luck - but it's not quite that simple. The truth is the gene that leads to a predisposition to baldness appears to be passed maternally. That is to say, a father's hair - or lack thereof - will not necessarily have any genetic impact on his son. However, men whose maternal grandfathers and uncles suffer from baldness are more liable to suffer themselves.
The science behind this is a bit complicated. All of us carry two chromosomes: XY for men and XX for women. The University of Bonn carried out a groundbreaking study in 2005, which led to the discovery that the disposition to baldness passes along the X chromosome - the chromosome which men inherit from their mothers. The "baldness gene" is recessive, meaning that a woman must have received it from both sides of her family in order to pass it along. In other words, a man worried about baldness will usually have a good idea of his chances by looking at his male relatives on his mother's side.
It's not quite that simple. Although the genes on the mother's side of the family are far more important when it comes to baldness, a father can still have an impact. What's more, these genes lead to a predisposition to baldness - not necessarily baldness itself. In some families, all men suffer, while in others, one brother might lose his hair while the other does not. Unfortunately, it seems that genes are not the only thing responsible for hair loss. There are also environmental issues at play, which scientists have yet to fully explore.
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