Research points to smoking as cause of baldness

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Hair follicles, Hair loss, Baldness

Researchers in Taiwan say that, on top of causing skin to wrinkle
and speeding up the greying process, smoking may also cause men to
go bald.

Treatments for baldness are a multi-billion euro business that includes numerous hair care products produced by personal care players, but if the research is to be believed, giving up cigarettes could prove just as effective. The research was carried out at the Far Eastern Memorial Hospital in Tapei, where a study was conducted on 740 Taiwanese men, centering on andregenetic alopecia, or male pattern baldness. The researchers compiled information concerning the age that the men started to go bald, as well as listing any specific conditions or contributing factors to the hair loss. The report confirmed the theory that that Asian males are, on average, more likely to hang on to a full head of hair for longer, but also discovered that individuals within the study group who confirmed that they smoked 20 cigarettes a day or more were linked to a higher rate of baldness. Experts believe that the research findings are particularly significant given that Asian men are less prone to baldness, therefore reducing the bias that purely genetic reasons might have had on the outcome. The scientists believe that the reason for the higher rate of baldness amongst smokers is that the habit may lead to the destruction of hair follicles as well as damaging cells at the root of the hair follicles. Last year scientists at the University of Manchester discovered the molecular process that determines which embryonic skin cells form into hair follicles. The team found out that cells given the genetic command to become hair follicles send signals to other cells to prevent them from doing otherwise, producing specific hair-loss patterns. Likewise, the research discovered that by hyperactivating the hair protein in mice, the resulting offspring led to mice pups with more hair. Currently the market for hair loss treatments is estimated to be worth €1 billion. An estimated 40 per cent of men have noticeable hair loss by the time they reach 35, a figure that rises to 65 per cent by the age of 60. Although a vast array of topical hair loss applications exist, the most effective treatments are considered to be pharmaceutical products such as Propecia and Rogaine.

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