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Early baldness doubles risk of prostate cancer: study

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PARIS – Men who start to lose their hair by age 20 — a syndrome known as pattern baldness — are twice as likely to develop prostate cancer later in life, according to a new study.

The findings, published this week in the Annals of Oncology, could help identify men who should be screened early and more often for disease, the researchers said.

Prostate cancer is the commonest non-skin cancer among men worldwide and, after lung tumours, is the second biggest cause of death from cancer among men in the United States and Europe. Most cases occur among men aged in their sixties.

Earlier research has shown that sex hormones called androgens play a key role in the development of both pattern baldness and cancer of the prostate, a walnut-sized gland near the bladder crucial to the male reproductive system.

But the link between the two remained obscure, with at least one study suggesting that premature baldness actually pointed to a reduced risk of cancer.

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To probe further, a team of scientists led by Philippe Giraud of Georges Pompidou European Hospital in Paris asked 669 men — 338 of whom had a history of prostate cancer — how bald they were at ages 20, 30 and 40, using standardised images for reference.

Men who did not start to lose their hair until age 30 or 40 showed no increased risk compared to the control group of developing the dreaded disease.

But for those who had early-onset balding — a condition known to doctors as androgenic alopecia — at age 20, the risk doubled.

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Giraud said balding men should not panic. “The fact that a (young) man is losing his hair does not mean that he will have cancer,” he said by telephone.

He also cautioned that the results would need to be verified in follow up studies.

But the findings suggest that premature balding could become a useful marker to help doctors screen for the disease, he said.

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“Current prostate screening protocols are very controversial because some worry that systematic screening at 50 years old — without taking other criteria into account — will lead to over-treatment,” he said.

Many countries have routine screening programmes for men in their middle age.

One of the problems, however, is that the so-called PSA antigen test, now 20 years old, cannot distinguish between low-risk tumours and aggressive lesions that are often fatal.

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Antigen levels can also fluctuate according to the individual and may be skewed by prostate inflammation.

One out of two men lose their hair, but of the 50 percent of men who go partially or totally bald, only 10 to 15 percent suffer from androgenic alopecia, Giraud said.

Another study published last year showed that finger patterns could also help identify which men should undergo regular screening.

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Men whose index fingers are longer than their ring, or fourth, fingers run a significantly lower risk of prostate cancer, the study found.


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20 million children not vaccinated in 2018: UN warns against ‘stagnation’

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Almost 20 million children missed out on potentially life-saving vaccinations last year, the UN said Monday, as surging measles cases highlighted "dangerous" gaps in efforts to shield kids from preventable illness.

Last year, 19.4 million children were "not fully vaccinated", the World Health Organization and the UNICEF children's agency said in an annual report -- up from 18.7 million in 2017 and about 18.5 million the year before.

This all pointed to a "dangerous stagnation of global vaccination rates, due to conflict, inequality and complacency," the United Nations agencies said.

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Mapping the Moon for Apollo

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At an International Astronomical Union meeting in 1955, noted astronomer Gerard Kuiper asked for suggestions and collaborators on a project to make a map of the Moon. At the time, the best lunar atlases had hand-drawn images, and Kuiper wanted to use state-of-the-art telescopes to make a photographic atlas.

Only one person responded.

That was indicative of the astronomical community’s general attitude toward the Moon. After all, telescopes were designed to look at distant objects, and the Moon is rather close, and boring as well, since its appearance doesn’t change. Furthermore, Kuiper wanted to make a map, and that’s the sort of thing that geologists, not astronomers, do.

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Nearly 500,000 people have signed up on Facebook for a proposed raid on Area 51 — vowing to ‘see them aliens’

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Extraterrestrial believers have had enough with restricted access to the so-called Area 51, the infamous government facility in the southern Nevada desert. On Facebook, nearly half a million people signed up to raid Area 51 to "see them aliens” by Friday afternoon.

This article first appeared in Salon.

The description of the Facebook titled "Storm Area 51, They Can't Stop All of Us," event reads:

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