Alopecia: the case for medical necessity

Skinmed. 2011 Mar-Apr;9(2):79-84.


Although alopecia is one of the most prevalent dermatologic conditions in the United States, it is typically viewed as a benign process with only cosmetic consequences. Androgenic alopecia has an especially strong perception as a cosmetic management issue. This contribution reviews literature gathered through MEDLINE from PubMed to emphasize the value of hair as a part of the system and to illustrate that androgenic alopecia, like psoriasis, can have severe consequences and serve as a risk factor for the development of life-threatening diseases. Individuals with alopecia experience psychosocial and psychiatric illness and may be at risk for cardiovascular disease, prostatic cancer, and squamous cell carcinoma of the scalp. All persons with alopecia should be evaluated and treated by a physician to minimize its psychological effects and reduce the risk of developing other medical conditions and be further assessed for the presence of commonly associated comorbid conditions.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alopecia / epidemiology*
  • Alopecia / psychology
  • Alopecia / therapy
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / etiology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / etiology
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Risk Factors
  • Scalp / pathology
  • Skin Neoplasms / etiology
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology
  • United States / epidemiology