Gene test for hair loss

September 10, 2009 3:23:26 PM PDT
It's typical for the average person to lose about 100 hairs from their head every day. What if you could find out if you were going to go bald before visible hair loss started? A new DNA test is giving those who want it, the power to see what their future holds. ome consider it part of their style. Others do everything they can to prevent it. Would you want to find out if baldness was in your crystal ball?

"This is exciting because it's the first lab test for hair loss," said Dr. Alan Bauman, a board-certified hair restoration physician at Bauman Medical Group in Boca Raton, Florida

People hand over a saliva swab. It's taken back to the lab where the DNA is analyzed. Researchers look for a genetic variation on the X chromosome that's linked to hair loss.

Tom Mastanduono just read his results -- he's low-risk.

"There's something psychological about having your hair," Tom said. "It's not totally getting old."

Low-risk means you have an 80 percent chance of holding onto your hair by age 60. High risk means there's a 60 percent chance of severe hair loss by 40. Tom's 15-year-old son Eric is up next.

"I can see here that I'm high-risk," Eric said. "It's a bit shocking to find out at such a young age."

One hundred million Americans have hair loss -- about 60 million are men and 40 million are women. Doctors say the gene test puts the power of prevention in the patient's hands.

"This just gives another piece of information, and then you decide with your doctor what you want to do," Dr. Bauman said.

Tom's low risk, but will keep getting hair preservation therapy. And high-risk Eric won't seek preventive treatment...yet.

"I don't really care right now," he said. "It's not of that much importance, because I have a full head of hair and it doesn't really matter that much."

But he admits his opinions on his appearance may change in the future.

Drugs such as finasteride and minoxidil can help slow baldness and promote hair growth. Dr. Bauman says the test -- which is available for men and women -- costs less than $200 and should be done through a board-certified hair restoration specialist. The results take two to four weeks.

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