CHICAGO While Asian men generally have less trouble than Caucasians with the most common form of hereditary male baldness, smoking cigarettes may erase that edge, researchers said on Monday.
Smoking may destroy hair follicles, interfere with the way blood and hormones are circulated in the scalp or increase the production of estrogen, said Lin-Hui Su of the Far Eastern Memorial Hospital and Tony Hsiu-Hsi Chen of National Taiwan University in Taipei.
A look at 740 men in Taiwan with an average age of 65 found cigarette use played an important role "in the development of moderate or severe" hair loss, Su and Chin said, in cases where the men smoked 20 or more cigarettes a day.
But generally speaking the risk of androgenic alopecia -- the common male hair loss that occurs in various patterns -- was slower among the Taiwanese men than among "persons of white race/ethnicity" as measured by previous studies elsewhere.
The study, published in the November issue of the Archives of Dermatology, recommended that men showing early signs of hair loss should be advised about the role smoking can play to prevent further progression.
While the kind of hair loss studied is common among whites, it is less common among blacks, Asians and native Americans, the study said. Three previous studies on the impact of smoking produced inconsistent results, it added.
(Reporting by Michael Conlon, Editing by Maggie Fox and John O'Callaghan)