January 30, 2017
405 Testosterone & DHT [30 January 2017]
An article in this morning’s National Post (January 24) prompted this topic. It reported on a University of Toronto study that found male pattern baldness was twice as accurate in predicting risk of prostate cancer than the latest DNA test. A previous study from Australia found a link between prostate cancer and vertex balding (at the top of the head) but not frontal balding (receding hairline).
The link between baldness and prostate health is not new – we’ve suspected for years that bald men are more likely to have prostate problems. The link is the male hormone testosterone (T) or, rather, the more active form dihydrotestosterone (DHT). An enzyme called 5 alpha reductase converts T to DHT. DHT is essential for male development in the fetal stage and at puberty, and plays a few roles in adults, but excess DHT causes problems. Both male pattern baldness and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) or enlarged prostate, are strongly linked to high DHT levels.
Back in 1941 two researchers Charles Huggins and Clarence Hodges discovered that testosterone “activated” prostate cancer and concluded that reducing testosterone would treat it. Decades of prostate cancer treatments have been based on this idea, called the “androgen hypothesis”.
That theory is only recently being questioned. Research by Dr. Abraham Morgentaler at Harvard Medical School found the opposite to be true – that the lower the testosterone levels, the higher the risk of prostate cancer. His results make more sense – testosterone levels peak at age 20 and decline with age while prostate cancer risk increases with age. A literature search found no evidence to support the androgen hypothesis over the past 75 years. Morgentaler explains: “The persistence of the androgen hypothesis despite strong contradictory evidence teaches us how difficult it is to abandon ideas learned during our training, even in this age of evidence-based medicine.”
While the effect on cancer is uncertain, both male pattern baldness and enlarged prostate can be improved by blocking the conversion of testosterone to DHT. Several natural products are known to safely block the 5 alpha reductase enzyme responsible: saw palmetto, Pygeum bark, stinging nettle root, beta sitosterol, pumpkin seed oil and green tea. Several of these are often combined in “prostate formulas” which are available in health food stores. I wrote about these and other natural products for BPH in #158 (March 2012).
For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner. Find this article on my website for links to sources and further reading.