Prostate pill may help halt female hair loss and cause ‘significant’ growth, study shows 

Prostate pill may help halt female hair loss and cause ‘significant’ growth, study shows 

A drug used to treat prostate cancer may help women combat hair loss. In a recent study of 17 women, more than half experienced ‘significant’ hair reg

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A drug used to treat prostate cancer may help women combat hair loss. In a recent study of 17 women, more than half experienced ‘significant’ hair regrowth within weeks of taking the drug, bicalutamide.

The treatment works for prostate cancer by stopping testosterone from reaching cancer cells. 

Prostate cancer uses the male hormone to grow, and blocking it not only slows the growth of a tumour, it may even shrink it. It is these same testosterone-blocking effects that prompted scientists to trial the drug for female hair loss.

A drug used to treat prostate cancer may help women combat hair loss (file image)

A drug used to treat prostate cancer may help women combat hair loss (file image)

A drug used to treat prostate cancer may help women combat hair loss (file image) 

That’s because, along with genetics and the menopause, for example, the hormone is implicated in androgenetic alopecia, the most common form of hair loss in women.

Testosterone, while regarded as a male hormone, is also present in small quantities in women, and can attack hair follicles and accelerate hair loss in women.

This process accelerates post-menopause as when women’s oestrogen levels decline, the testosterone becomes more dominant.

In the new trial, bicalutamide, taken as a pill, was given to the women every day, or every other day for a minimum of six months (file image)

In the new trial, bicalutamide, taken as a pill, was given to the women every day, or every other day for a minimum of six months (file image)

In the new trial, bicalutamide, taken as a pill, was given to the women every day, or every other day for a minimum of six months (file image) 

As a result, hairs produced by the affected follicles become progressively smaller in diameter and shorter in length until eventually the follicles shrink completely and stop producing hair.

Typically this results in an overall thinning of the hair.

It’s thought to affect up to one in three women at some time, and has been linked to an increased risk of depression. It starts later in life than hair loss in men, with symptoms commonly appearing in the patient’s 50s or 60s.

Current treatments include the drug minoxidil, but this won’t work for all and brings the risk of side-effects such as skin rashes and headaches.

Tackle hair loss

Jabs of blood into the scalp may help tackle hair loss in women and men, reports the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. 

The jabs contain platelet- rich plasma (PRP), made by spinning a sample of the patient’s own blood in a centrifuge to separate red blood cells and leave proteins, said to be rich in growth factors that help reverse damage to hair follicles. 

The PRP is then injected into the scalp. Researchers from the University Hospital Cologne reviewed 13 trials involving 356 people and concluded the treatment increased hair density, compared to a placebo, with no adverse effects. 

In the new trial, bicalutamide, taken as a pill, was given to the women every day, or every other day for a minimum of six months. According to the results of the pilot study reported in the journal, Dermatologic Therapy, there was a ‘great improvement’ in hair density in 53 per cent of the women.

The results were based on visual before and after assessments by dermatologists.

There were no ‘significant’ adverse events, but in cancer patients it can cause rashes and hot sweats.

The researchers behind the trial, from Ramon y Cajal University Hospital in Madrid, believe their results show: ‘Treatment with this drug may be a new and useful option for women.’

Commenting on the research, Dr Bav Shergill, a consultant dermatologist, and honorary senior lecturer, at the University of Manchester, says similar anti-testosterone drugs such as spironolactone have shown promise too, adding: ‘This new application of a prostate cancer drug is interesting and I look forward to seeing research on a larger group.’

Under the microscope

Former British tennis hero Tim Henman, 45, takes our health quiz

Can you run up the stairs

Former British tennis hero Tim Henman, 45, takes our health quiz

Former British tennis hero Tim Henman, 45, takes our health quiz

Former British tennis hero Tim Henman, 45, takes our health quiz

Yes. I stopped playing professional tennis 12 years ago and now I keep fit in my home gym, five times a week for around an hour a time. It has a treadmill, bike, Versaclimber [a cardio machine that provides a total body workout] and weights. I also go for 5k runs with my wife, Lucy, and our black Labradors Bumble and Bella.

Get your five a day?

Definitely. Lucy has a vegetable patch and started growing her own. We all [the couple have children Rosie, 17, Olivia, 14, Grace, 12] eat well and have a balanced diet.

Ever dieted?

When I was playing, I kept my calorie intake up with protein shakes and chicken, fish and steak. Now there’s no real diet, but I pay attention to what I eat. I’m 6ft 1in and weigh just over 12st (77kg).

Any vices?

Wine. Any wine. I like it all. Eight days a week.

Had anything removed?

When I was 28, my wisdom teeth were coming through and I had all four out under general anaesthetic. I remember friends who’d had terrible experiences, but my teeth were removed at 8am and I ate steak and chips for lunch that day.

Cope well with pain?

Pretty well. I played more than 1,000 matches and stopped in very few of them — though aged 20, I broke my left leg in three places. It was a spiral fracture [caused by the foot remaining in once place while the body was in motion]. I had an operation two days later and three pins were put in at the bottom. I’ve still got them in now and have never had a problem.

Worst illness/injury?

Breaking my leg. I was ranked 145th in the world at the time and I missed five months of tennis.

Pop any pills?

Anti-inflammatories for my right elbow if it’s sore. I’ve had three operations on it — the first in my 20s; I suspect the damage was triggered by playing too much tennis in my teens when my bones were still soft and muscles were developing quickly.

Tried alternative remedies?

When playing, I had acupuncture.

Biggest phobia?

Snakes, though I can’t explain why. I can’t watch them on TV and don’t even like toy snakes.

What keeps you awake at night?

I’ve always been a very good sleeper. I can sleep any time, anywhere and never lost sleep before a big match.

Hangover cure

A proper breakfast with eggs, avocado and bacon. Also, hydration.

Ever had plastic surgery

It’s not for me, but horses for courses.

Interview by Helen Gilbert  

  • Tim will play at the Champions Tennis event this month. Tickets are available at championstennis.co.uk   

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