Background: Recession of the frontal hairline is a common event in postmenopausal women. This has been shown not to be a marker of gross androgenization, and is usually a progressive nonscarring alopecia. Six postmenopausal women, who developed a progressive frontal scarring alopecia, were studied and their clinical and laboratory data, as well as the results of scalp biopsy specimens in all six patients, were analyzed and compared with recognized forms of scarring alopecia and recently described findings in androgenetic alopecia.
Observations: The six postmenopausal women developed a progressive frontal hairline recession that was associated with perifollicular erythema within the marginal hairline, producing a frontal fibrosing alopecia extending to the temporal and parietal hair margins. Scalp biopsy specimens from the frontal hair margin showed perifollicular fibrosis and lymphocytic inflammation concentrated around the isthmus and infundibular areas of the follicles. Immunophenotyping of the lymphocytes showed a dominance of activated T-helper cells. Clinical review of all six cases showed a progressive marginal alopecia without the typical multifocal areas of involvement seen in lichen planopilaris or pseudopelade. None of the patients had mucous membrane or skin lesions typical of lichen planus. Hormonal studies, in five patients, showed no elevated androgen abnormalities.
Conclusions: Progressive frontal recession in postmenopausal women may show clinical features of a fibrosing alopecia. The histologic findings are indistinguishable from those seen in lichen planopilaris. However, the absence of associated lesions of lichen planus in all six women raises the possibility that this mode of follicular destruction represents a reaction pattern triggered by the events underlying postmenopausal frontal hairline recession.