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Genetic Testing for Male Pattern Baldness: Follicular Forecasting or Hair Loss Hunches?

Genetic Testing for Male Pattern Baldness: Follicular Forecasting or Hair Loss Hunches?


It wasn't all that long ago that men losing their hair had few viable options other than resigning themselves to a future of wearing awkward hats or wigs, submitting to potentially painful transplants, or simply coming to terms with their baldness.  Thanks to modern hair loss treatments such as Rogaine® (minoxidil) and Propecia® (finasteride) this is no longer the case, although these treatments have one crucial hitch in common: both are more effective at slowing hair loss and helping to retain the hair you have than at regrowing lost hair. 

Until recently, men who were worried about going bald could only obsessively scrutinize their hairlines, check the shower drain for higher than normal shedding, and look to their family history for a potentially harrowing glimpse into their future.  Now, however, an Irvine, California company called HairDX is offering men who are concerned about male pattern baldness the opportunity to assess their risk of hair loss using a simple DNA test that checks for the presence of genetic markers connected to hair loss.

Your Genes May Hold the Answer to Hair Loss

For $149, HairDX will test a DNA sample swabbed from the inside of your cheek and deliver a report on your future chances of falling victim to male pattern baldness, or androgenetic alopecia (sometimes referred to as androgenic alopecia or alopecia androgenetica).  Although some genetics experts have expressed doubts about the reliability of HairDX's testing and indicate that other as yet unidentified genetic markers may play a significant role in determining a person's chances of losing his or her hair, others have seized on HairDX's testing as a potentially valuable tool in forestalling baldness.

Without conclusive evidence on the overall accuracy of the HairDX test, it falls to each individual to determine how valuable the HairDX service would be to him.  If you've been concerned enough about possible future hair loss that you've considered starting a preemptive regimen of minoxidil and finasteride, you may consider $149 a small price to pay, especially if your father's and grandfather's pates are looking disturbingly bare. Men who were adopted or otherwise lack knowledge of their biological history may also find the HairDX service valuable.

Is the HairDX baldness test worth it?

In any case, the HairDX test is certainly more cost-effective than general DNA testing services such as deCODEme and 23andMe, which can cost up to $999 but provide information on ancestry and future genetic disease risk along with comprehensive analysis of a person's entire DNA profile - in fact, for $350,000 you can have even have your entire genome privately sequenced by a company called Knome.  In this context, if determining your future chance of baldness is your major reason for considering DNA testing, the HairDX system could definitely save you money in the short term.  In the long run, HairDX could save you the cost of hair loss treatment products, which can run well into the thousands and which you might decide against purchasing if your chances of going bald are relatively low. 

However, it's worth noting that the HairDX test provides no guarantee of successful or accurate results, and even if you're found to be 95 percent likely to retain your hair, you could still go bald.  Deciding whether to seek treatment for hair loss is, of course, still a highly personal decision. HairDX simply provides the option to make your decision a more informed one.

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