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 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

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.

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.

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.

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.’