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What is male pattern baldness?

Male pattern baldness is the common type of hair loss that develops in most men at some stage. The condition is sometimes called androgenetic alopecia. It usually takes 15-25 years to go bald. However, some men go bald in fewer than five years.
Typically, at first the hair begins to thin (recede) at the sides (temples). At the same time, the hair usually becomes thin on the top of the head. A bald patch gradually develops in the middle of the scalp. The receding sides and the bald patch on the top (the crown) gradually enlarge and join together, leaving a patch at the front. The patch at the front eventually thins as well.
A rim of hair is often left around the back and sides of the scalp. In some men, this rim of hair also thins and goes to leave a completely bald scalp.

Who gets male pattern baldness?

Nearly all men have some baldness by the time they are in their 60s. However, the age the hair loss starts is variable. About three in ten 30 year-olds and half of 50 year-olds are quite bald. Some women also develop a similar type of hair loss, mainly at the crown. Baldness in women is much more common after the menopause. About 13 in a 100 women have some baldness before the menopause, rising to 75 in a 100 over the age of 65.
Male hormones are involved in causing these changes. The level of the main male hormone, testosterone, is normal in men with baldness. Hair follicles convert testosterone into another hormone called dihydrotestosterone. For reasons that are not clear, affected hair follicles become more sensitive to dihydrotestosterone, which causes the hair follicles to shrink. It is also not clear why different hair follicles are affected at different times to make the balding process gradual.
The condition is hereditary (genetic); the location of the gene was identified in 2008. It is also not clear why only scalp hairs are affected and not other areas such as the beard or armpits.

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