As we age, the statistics point to hair loss becoming an increasingly likely issue.
From just a 40% chance at the age of 35, the likelihood of hair loss gradually increases up to an 80% chance at age 85.
With male pattern hair loss (androgenic alopecia) being the most common cause of hair loss in men by far, could it be the case that sensitivity to hair loss causing hormone DHT increases with age?
DHT, or dihydrotestosterone, is an androgen hormone that is formed when enzyme 5-alpha reductase combines with male sex hormone testosterone.
Hair loss occurs when DHT causes follicular miniaturisation atop the scalp, which leads to hairs becoming thin and wispy.
The overall result of DHT damage is thinning hair atop the scalp, which becomes evident as the scalp gets increasingly visible as hair density is reduced.
So, how do we know that DHT is the reason behind hair loss?
One way of proving the connection is the fact that when oneof a pair of identical twins is castrated before puberty, that twin never experiences any genetic hair loss, whereas the other twin does.
The theory is also provable on a clinical level, due to the fact that many studies have shown the efficacy of medication Propecia for treating hair loss, which blocks the enzyme 5-alpha reductase to prevent it forming dihydrotesterone, meaning that less DHT is formed overall by the body.
Sensitivity to DHT is just one genetic trait that seems to make a person’s cells more responsive to their own hormones.
This means that two people of the same age can have the same levels of a hormone in their system, but their bodies’ responses to that hormone can be very different, for instance a certain level of DHT may trigger hair loss in some men but not in others.
Because of this, it is impossible to predict at what point the hair loss will onset, how rapid it will be, and other variable factors, even when comparing close family.
Studies have also indicated response to anti-androgen therapy as a treatment for hair loss is greater among patients who are more androgen sensitive.
So, older men are not necessarily more sensitive to DHT or medications that block it; it’s more likely that older men have been experiencing hair loss for a longer time than younger men, hence why they have more hair loss overall and are more likely to have hair loss at all.
However, it’s also worth remembering that there does not seem to be much protection against hair loss as men age and testosterone levels fall.
Low testosterone levels may be due to an undiscovered genetic clock, but also potentially down to the fact that androgen cells are able to produce DHT inside themselves, even when the ‘endocrine’ hormones, those produced by the testes and adrenal gland, diminish.
As long as the cell can produce DHT in men more sensitive to it due to having a genetic predisposition, hair loss will likely progress in the absence of a hair loss treatment plan.
So, hair loss gets increasingly likely as we age, and there are several theories as to why this might be.
It’s important to remember that hair loss cannot be treated pre-emptively, and it can begin any time after puberty in boys; so just because your male relations don’t have hair loss, it doesn’t mean that you won’t express the gene yourself.
It’s impossible to predict what age your noticeable shedding will begin, but as the years go by it’s worth staying vigilant in order to treat the hair loss before it gets too advanced.