Baldness is a harmless yet frustrating problem affecting millions around the world. While baldness is often identified as a male issue, in reality, it can affect anyone, despite gender.
By age 35, two-thirds of all men in America will experience hair loss. Men and women experience balding in two different predictable patterns - Male Pattern Baldness (MPB) and Female Pattern Baldness (FPB).
In men, MPB can start as early as in the 20s, and in general, 95% of hair loss experienced by men is due to MPB.
Women usually experience FPB after menopause.
By the age of 80, about 50% of women experience balding.
Both MPB and FPB are commonly called androgenetic alopecia.
While there could be different factors influencing hair loss and baldness, genetics play a significant role in determining whether or not a person would be affected by androgenic alopecia.
Xcode Life's Genetic Baldness DNA Report
Researchers have identified a number of genes associated with balding.
In the sample report below, we've attempted to analyze some important genes that increase the risk of balding.
You can identify your genetic risk of balding by using your 23andMe DNA data and placing an order for the Gene Health Report.
Does Hair Loss Come From Your Mother’s Or Father’s Side of The Family?
A study published by The Journal of Gerontology suggests that up to 79% of MPB could be heritable. Men inherit their X chromosome from their mothers and Y from their fathers.
The AR (Androgen Receptor) gene, found on the X chromosome, is strongly associated with baldness.
As a result, until recently, people assumed that male pattern baldness is only inherited from the mother.
Right now, though, experts think differently.
There is not one single gene that causes androgenic alopecia.
A 2017 study shows up to 63 genes may be involved in causing baldness.
Out of these, only 6 of these genes are on the X chromosome.
Therefore, both the mother’s and the father’s side of your family may cause pattern baldness.
Having a close relative from either side of the family with pattern baldness increases your risk of developing balding too.
What Is Male Pattern Baldness?
Male Pattern Baldness (MPB) is the predictable pattern in which men start losing hair and experience balding.
The typical pattern starts at the hairline, and hair starts receding, forming an ‘M’ shape. The hair at the center of the crown begins thinning next.
Eventually, only the hairs at the sides of the head remain, and the center ‘U’ shaped area gets bald. This is called a horseshoe pattern.
MPB is a result of fluctuating male hormones called androgens. The androgens regulate hair growth.
High levels of androgens in the body can affect the hair growth cycle, and over time, the hair follicles shrink, and new hairs stop growing, causing baldness.
Is There A Baldness Gene?
While there are multiple genes causing hair loss, both on the X and Y chromosomes, the most popularly discussed one is the AR gene.
The Androgen Receptor gene affects androgen production in the body. Changes in this gene may increase the activity of androgen receptors in the scalp.
As a result, the hair growth cycle is disturbed, and new hairs stop growing at the end of the cycle.
A study analyzed if specific Androgen Receptor polymorphisms (StuI restriction fragment length and two triplet repeats) caused balding in 54 younger men and 392 older men.
The study showed that the androgen receptor gene StuI restriction site was found in 98.1% of younger men and 92.3% of older men with balding.
Other than Genetic Hair Loss, What Causes Balding?
Other than heredity, here are other causes that can lead to balding.
Apart from genetics, other factors like stress, pregnancy, and certain kinds of tumors can cause androgen fluctuations, leading to temporary or permanent balding.
Drug-induced alopecia is a condition that causes hair loss and balding as a result of using certain drugs.
About 15% of patients on lithium-based drugs seem to develop hair thinning.
Specific antihypertensive, anticonvulsant, and antipsychotic drugs can also cause hair loss and balding.
Talk to your doctor to understand your risks if you are on any of these medications.
As people age, non-androgen-dependent hair thinning can lead to balding.
With age, the hair follicles shrink, and the hair diameter reduces, leading to hair loss and balding.
Smoking reduces blood flow to the scalp, affecting the hair growth cycle.
Smoke can also damage the DNA of the hair follicles, increasing a person’s risk of hair loss and balding.
When a person is stressed, the body releases a stress hormone called cortisol.
Cortisol may negatively affect the hair follicle cells, leading to problems like hair thinning, greying, and balding.
What Does it Mean if My DNA Test Says I am Likely to Go Bald?
If your DNA says you have a higher risk of developing androgenic alopecia, it means some of your genes may encourage balding over time.
Some people may be carriers of balding genes but may not experience the condition themselves.
They may, however, pass the genes on to their children and grandchildren.
Slowing Hair Loss
If you have the genes for balding, healthy lifestyle changes, getting the proper nutrients, using safe hair care products, and using certain topical medicines may help postpone the condition.
Some people may opt for hair transplantation surgery (transplanting healthy hair follicles from one section of the scalp to the balding areas) to handle the condition.
Summary: Is There A Baldness Gene
Along with the AR gene, many other genes can encourage balding in men and women.
Getting your genes tested early on will help you know if you have a risk for balding.
Genes, along with lifestyle habits and factors like the quality of water and hair care products used, can all affect the rate and extent of balding.