Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Baldness Is not a Disease. It Does not Need to Be "Cured"

A recent article in New Scientist made me annoyed. The title in the print edition is Cure for Baldness Finally Cuts It. It starts off with ...
We may be a hair's breadth away from a cure for baldness.
Baldness is not a disease so it doesn't need to be cured.1 Gray hair is also not a disease and neither are the wrinkles that appear on your face as you get older.

You may choose to disguise baldness with hair transplants or paint your white hairs to make it look like you don't have them. You can even inject botox to hide wrinkles. If you do this, the only disease you have is vanity. And stupidity, for letting the cosmetic industry trick you into feeling guilty about a perfectly natural phenomenon.

I'm never going to let my tax money pay for your vanity "cure." Don't even ask if it should be covered by our public health insurance.


1. Don't quibble. You know that what I'm talking about is the normal kind of baldness in men that develops as you get older.

45 comments :

  1. Ironically, Patrick Stewart's baldness was of the "abnormally young" variety (age 18), though it certainly works to give his Captain Picard a certain gravitas. He's also a supporter of the British Humanists.

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  2. "feeling guilty about a perfectly natural phenomenon"

    Well, something being natural or not is not a criteria for labeling it a disease deserving of treatment. Cancer, dementia, blindness, heart diseases, and many other biological conditions are also 'natural', especially in older people. The reason we label them a disease deserving of treatment is because they incur prolonged suffering on the individual and their family and loved ones. Of course, baldness doesn't incur as much suffering, if any, on the individual as the other conditions. But it may affect some people's self-esteem or psychological well-being.

    Should public healthcare systems have a lower bar on what constitutes a genuine "disease"? That's a different question. I personally have no opinion one way or the other.

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    1. This ignores the extent to which people's self-esteem and psychological well-being are influenced by the frequently arbitrary (and often enhanced or even manufactured by commercial interests) standards of the society they live in. We can treat body-image issues as a medical problem, or a grooming and cosmetics issue -- or we can work to change societal attitudes, starting by repudiating them.

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  3. Yes, there are a few people who successfully make baldness a fashion statement and great for them, but the whole reason large numbers of people go in for hair transplants or dye their hair when going grey isn't just out of vanity -- ageism is a real feature in society and many people see balding or grey people as "over the hill" and not worth employing. I'm going a bit bald and grey myself and would like to think that I'm above such things as to worry about appearances, but not everyone has that luxury -- people in sales, for example.

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  4. I hate my baldness part of me. It is a disease or rather a result of decay just like wrinkles. Its not natural but a result of sin interfering with our original plan of eternity on earth. Its ugly in many ways.
    The cosmetic industry has it right and has it because of common opinion. They only respond to these beliefs and are not the origin of them.

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  5. Although I'm a big fan of this blog and the opinions herein (and you, by extension, Larry), I disagree with you on this matter. Like ShadiZ1 pointed out, cancer is also a natural process, but that's a distinction that means nothing: we still consider cancer a disease, and something to be cured. Coming from a biogerontological background, I feel the same way about ageing. It's only considered 'natural' because it's a process that will spare none of us. That doesn't make it good, by extension. Ageing is the main cause of mortality in the developed world (as it is the main risk factor for cancer, type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disease, etc.), and might well be considered a disease itself, as an inherently detrimental process that underlies all the ailments of older age. If balding is a symptom of this process -- as is wrinkling -- that make these phenomena, by extension, symptoms of an underlying disease process, even if they don't harm health by themselves. That doesn't mean that wrinkling and baldness should be cured, but if people want to fight these 'natural' processes, I think they should have the right to do so: who is to say that the psychological stress of having developed these 'symptoms' isn't suffering that people should have the choice to do without?

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    1. I regret using the word "natural" 'cause it supplied ammunition to the nit-pickers. Maybe "normal" would have been better.

      Anyway, thanks for injecting a bit of humor into the comments. Your parody of those people who want to label normal ageing as a "disease" is excellent. I especially like your statement that "ageing is the main cause of motality in the developed world." Very funny.

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    2. If and when science comes up with a pill to slow or eliminate the ageing process, I take it you would not want your tax dollars to fund that either, because ageing is normal and not a disease, right?

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    3. What do you mean by the "aging process", though? There are a large number of diseases that become more prevalent the longer one lives, as you mention yourself. And if I may presume to speak for Larry, I doubt he would object to funding treatments that reduce their impact. But if the goal is just to look more youthfully attractive, then I think his point still stands.

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    4. Baldness can't be a part of aging process or decay otherwise people like Stalin http://www.biography.com/imported/images/Biography/Images/Profiles/S/Joseph-Stalin-9491723-1-402.jpg

      Reagan http://content9.flixster.com/rtactor/42/34/42347_pro.jpg

      and many others wouldn't have full heads of hair like that when they died.

      It looks like a genetic issue.

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    5. Is it me or Witton's comment just disappeared.....

      Anyway, he has been making unsubstantiated claims here and on other blogs that Larry Moran thinks baldness happens due to evolution and that he can prove him wrong. I've never had a chance to see him prove it and when he actually for the first time made a reference to some coherent stuff his comment disappeared. Has anyone seen it?

      Witton, I know you read this blog. Provide some evidence for your claims or you are out. I will be watching this blog from now on. So, no chance of you claiming Larry no likes ya...

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    6. Thanks Jim,

      That explains a lot....

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  6. Short (but "within the curve") men often feel bad about their stature. Is being short also a disease?

    By Larry's logic (and mine), no it is not. Would those of you claiming that baldness is a disease also say that shortness is a disease?

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    1. I don't know if the analogy holds. Baldness at an old age is an emergent phenomenon that the individual hasn't lived through before in their lives. It also sends direct signals about the individual's health and vigor -- more than what you'd get by simply observing their height. But you are correct in pointing out that psychological pain of the sort that I described (i.e. low self-esteem) can in many cases be a poor criterion for determining whether a certain biological condition is a disease or not. But regardless of the terminology, I think that we shouldn't look at the symptoms of aging as though they were the 'natural' course of things, and by extension that we shouldn't medically intervene to stop or alleviate them.

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    2. I think that we shouldn't look at the symptoms of aging as though they were the 'natural' course of things,

      They are natural. Just like height. Where I disagree with you is priorities. There are many things in the world far worse than baldness afflicting many people.

      Even in the ageing field, when prioritizing what needs our attention, I really hope other age related problems such as Parkinson's disease, heart conditions, Alzheimer's, cancer, etc, etc get priority over my hairline in research.

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    3. I'm all for prioritizing research funds, and as I said in my previous comment, I have no opinion one way or the other on whether public health care systems should cover such procedures for older men. But I think that the research that is done to 'cure' baldness is focused on conditions that Larry considers to be abnormal (i.e. baldness in women or young men). And if the same procedures that are used to treat baldness in these abnormal situation can also be used to treat baldness in older men, then that's an added benefit.

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  7. "I'm never going to let my tax money pay for your vanity "cure.""

    It's really not "your" tax money after you give it to the government, though, is it?

    Or are you doing a tongue-in-cheek riff on Rush Limbaugh, who last week was asking why the insurance premiums of any man should be spent providing birth control for women, a service no man would ever use?

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    1. Gimme a break.

      You know very well what I meant. I meant that I will never vote for anyone who proposes to use government funds to pay for vanity face lifts and vanity hair transplants. Did I really need to spell it out?

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  8. Maybe we should ask how many people here would like to have their hair back and if they would like their health plans to cover it.
    Doesn't OHIP in Ontario cover sex change surgery? What difference is there then when it come to psychological symptoms between the two? Both groups apparently suffer in isolation. I know few people that would give everything they own to get their hair back and they are not only men.

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    1. Boy, LouiseG, your capacity to be ignorant and offensive at the same time really knows no bounds, does it?

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    2. Really? What did I do wrong? Where is my ignorance and where am I being offensive? Spell it out!

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    3. You really need it spelt out? Oh, that's right, I forgot. You're an incredibly stupid person.

      OK. Your ignorance and offensiveness lie in your equating gender identity disorder with baldness.

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    4. Sorry, old habit. The condition is now called gender dysphoria.

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    5. GENDER IDENTITY DISORDER!! That takes the cake! GID cases rising media says!
      Baldness is a REAL result of decay! Not important enough for all to pay for I think.
      GID is a failure of thinking like any phobia. Its not real and should not be paid for except in therapy to fix it.
      Everybody is born with their right identity and society should insist on this interpretation. Making us pay for sex change is a unjust and immoral and unintellectual thing.
      Unless it grows hair then I might consider it!

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    6. Its not real and should not be paid for except in therapy to fix it.

      Well, you'll be happy to know that's exactly what OHIP pays for. What, you think it gave them a pension for life, or bars of gold, or something?

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    7. Latesuite: "You really need it spelt out? Oh, that's right, I forgot. You're an incredibly stupid person.

      OK. Your ignorance and offensiveness lie in your equating gender identity disorder with baldness."
      "Sorry, old habit. The condition is now called gender dysphoria"

      Don't pretend that you know anything about GID or baldness and what effect they can have on a person and to what degree. By saying or insinuating that you do, you portray your stupidity, extreme ignorance and total lack of knowledge on the subject. Wiki is not a good source on the subject.

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    8. I'm a psychiatrist who's losing his hair. I might know a bit.

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    9. Geez, Robert: Not only are you an ignorant crackpot, you're not even a decent human being.

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    10. lutesuite, Are you a male or a female?

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    11. Oh, one more. How many patients have you seen within the last year with GID and how many with hair loss?

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    12. Hi, LouiseG.

      Gender dysphoria is not my area. I've never treated anyone for it, though I have treated people with it. Can't give you the number, sorry.

      Also can't give you the number of people I have treated who had hair loss. There are too many. Not one of them received psychiatric treatment for hair loss, of course.

      I'm a male.

      Why do you ask?

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    13. "Gender dysphoria is not my area. I've never treated anyone for it, though I have treated people with it. Can't give you the number, sorry."

      1. Well . It is true that CAMH mainly specialize in the treatment.

      2. Of course. I didn't ask for the exact number of your patients. I have been to health/medical records. I sympathize with you. In 20... will have e-care :) Even Larry will like it.

      "Also can't give you the number of people I have treated who had hair loss.
      There are too many. "

      Did you really think I asked for that??? Hmmm

      "Not one of them received psychiatric treatment for hair loss."

      Of course.hair loss is not a psychiatric disease or disorder, so how would you provide treatment for a disorder that doesn't even exist in your area of expertise? How would it even be possible? Do you know? It beats me. I mean I know the technical answer but you probably wouldn't want to hear it, would you?

      I'm a male.

      If you were a female with hair loss we would have a discussion here. Possibly.

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    14. LousieG sez:

      Did you really think I asked for that??? Hmmm.

      Yes. Strange as it might seem, that is how I interpreted this question:

      How many patients have you seen within the last year with GID and how many with hair loss?

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  9. Alopecia areata may not be a "disease", but it is a condition that is way more and above the issue of the vanity of male pattern baldness

    http://www.naaf.org/site/PageServer

    It's acceptable for men to be bald. Unless your name is Sinead O'Connor, it's not so acceptable for women.

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  10. Larry,

    It's just hit me....what is your view on baldness with regards to evolution? Is it part of evolutionary process according to you or is it just a natural process a decay? What's your view?

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    1. Someone else asked this question a while ago. It didn't end well for him....

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    2. What do you mean? I don't get it. What is wrong with the question? Larry said that Quest and I are deceived or something, and that we should continue to comment here. That is what I did. I don't what to be deceived by someone into believing what the central dogma is on baldness among evolutionary experts like Larry and I assume well respected scientist in the world who often comment here. I already feel priveladged that those world renowned scientist want to quibble with me on the origins of life, which, by the way, has been my passion ever since I opened a biology book when I was 9.5

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    3. You never miss a chance to spew nonsense on a topic of which you are wholly ignorant, do you, LouiseG? Here is what I am alluding to:

      http://sandwalk.blogspot.ca/2013/03/john-witton-will-pay-you-1000-to-answer.html

      http://sandwalk.blogspot.ca/2013/03/goodbye-john-witton.html

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    4. I had read it before. What is your point? I don't quite get it? Am I the only one? Possibly?
      I don't know who Witton is and why you even link him? Wasn't he a mad man? Sorry if I'm missing the point. I just don't get it.

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    5. No you don't. As if that wasn't already abundantly clear.

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    6. John Witton says

      "... while I appreciate your offer to explain how proteins fold, I was looking more for the explanation as to what makes proteins self-assemble in the face of entropy barrier.

      Good. I accept that challenge. Let's work out the details. I expect you to write a check for $1000 and give it to a neutral third party. That party will send me the check if a neutral referee agrees that I have met your challenge. All we have to do now is agree on a judge. I suggest Michael Behe since he is a biochemist. Is he acceptable to you?

      Regarding Pattern Baldness Larry, I didn’t mean to be disrespectful just because you have this “evolutionary side-effect”... To be more specific, I was looking for a logical explanation as to how, from evolutionally point of view, you can explain this phenomenon.

      I accept this challenge as well. Same conditions apply except that maybe we should choose a different referee. I suggest Michael Denton, another well-known Intelligent Design Creationist. I'm pretty sure he understands enough about evolution to be able to judge whether my answer is logical. Agreed?"

      http://sandwalk.blogspot.ca/2013/02/saturday-february-28-1953.html?showComment=1362239321176#c6184799692194344479

      That is why some things are worth the sacrifice.

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    7. For those who don't know it is Larry who argues with Witton and agrees to explain baldness as an evolutionary phenomenon. Well, this is usally called?

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    8. Exactly what the fuck are you talking about?

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