Caution urged on baldness and COVID-19 claims

There have been media reports that bald men are at higher risk of COVID-19 and should be treated with caution, according to a ‘Fact Check’ by Channel Four News.

The research that led to the claims was conducted in Madrid and published pre-print in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. It looked at male-pattern baldness in 122 male patients admitted with severe COVID-19 symptoms. The study found 79% of men in their sample who were hospitalised with coronavirus were bald, versus what they claim is a 31–53% baldness rate in similar Caucasian male population.

According to the authors, the results indicate that a substantial proportion of individuals hospitalised for severe COVID-19 have androgen-related baldness. If the hypothesis of androgen-mediated COVID-19 severity is demonstrated in larger studies, antiandrogens could potentially be used in the treatment of COVID-19, they say.

However, in criticising the paper, Channel Four News highlights that the comparative figure of 31–53% baldness relates to men between 40 and 69 years – younger than most of the male patients with severe and even fatal COVID-19 infections and younger than the men in the study. Male-pattern baldness rates in the general population are hard to assess but there is some evidence that the figure may be around 70%. Not far from the figure identified in the paper.

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