A recent meta-analysis of 7 genome-wide association studies on early balding (alopecia) revealed single nucleotide polymorphism variants in the region of the amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) gene TAR DNA-binding protein 43 (TARDBP/TDP-43). We therefore explored the association of early-onset alopecia and ALS in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, a large cohort of 51,529 US men. In 1992, the participants (then aged 46-81 years) were asked to report their hair line pattern at age 45 years. During the follow-up period (1992-2008), 42 men were diagnosed with ALS. Of those, 13 had reported no alopecia, 18 had reported moderate alopecia, and 11 had reported extensive alopecia at age 45 years. Those who reported extensive alopecia had an almost 3-fold increased risk of ALS compared with those who reported no alopecia (relative risk = 2.74, 95% confidence interval: 1.23, 6.13). Furthermore, we observed a linear trend of increased risk of ALS with increasing level of balding at age 45 years (Ptrend = 0.02). In conclusion, men with early-onset alopecia seem to have a higher risk of ALS. The mechanisms underlying this association deserve further investigation.
Keywords: alopecia; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; cohort studies; male-pattern baldness; motor neuron disease.