Genetic Testing for Hair Loss

We all lose hair everyday. Under normal circumstances, you can lose anywhere between 50 to 100 strands of hair each day. However, this natural hair loss isn’t typically noticeable, since new hair strands are constantly growing to replace the hair you lose. Hair loss becomes noticeable when you start to lose hair more quickly than it can grow back. 

But how closely are your genes related to hair loss? Keep reading to learn more about genetic testing and hair loss, and how whole genome sequencing (WGS) can help you prevent this issue.

What causes hair loss?

According to the Mayo Clinic, hair loss can be a result of a combination of factors.1 Some causes of hair loss are permanent, while others can be reversed. Some of these causes include:

  • Family history: Genetics play a big role in hair loss. Genetic hair loss typically occurs as we get older, and it follows a progressive and predictable pattern.
  • Hormonal changes and health conditions: There are different medical and health conditions that can lead to hair loss, including thyroid disease, pregnancy and childbirth, scalp infections, menopause, and autoimmune conditions, among others.
  • Medications and supplements: A variety of treatments can make you lose hair, including medications used for arthritis, heart disease, high blood pressure, gout, and mental health disorders, among others.
  • Nutritional deficiencies: Your hair may be thinner and weaker if you’re not getting enough nutrients.
  • Cancer treatment: Receiving radiotherapy to the head, along with certain types of chemotherapy, can often result in hair loss. In some cases, hair may not grow back the same as it was once the treatment is over.
  • High stress levels: Instances of extremely high or chronic stress can lead to temporary hair thinning and loss.
  • Certain hairstyles and hair products: Tight and restrictive hairstyling, such as tight ponytails or braids, can cause traction alopecia. Frequent hair styling treatments also cause hair loss.

Genetic risk factors in hair loss

Having a family history of hair loss increases your risk of experiencing the same problem later on in life. But despite this common knowledge, the exact genetic factors that are associated with hair loss aren’t fully understood yet. However, we do know that hair loss is typically polygenic, which means that it’s related to multiple genes. The type of hair loss that’s most frequently related to genetics is called androgenetic alopecia, which is often referred to as male pattern baldness (MPB) or female pattern baldness (FPB).

According to research2, the AR gene is strongly associated with hair loss. This gene is located in the X chromosome, which we inherit from our mothers. However, this doesn’t mean that we exclusively inherit genetic baldness from our mothers, since many other genes can be related to this problem.

Another study3 identified 63 genetic traits that are associated with male pattern baldness. This study also found that these genetic traits could be linked to other disorders, such as prostate cancer and neurodegenerative disorders, which means that genetic testing for these markers could help screen for a wide range of diseases.

Types of hair loss

Not all types of hair loss are the same, and there’s a wide variety of conditions that can make you lose your hair. Naturally, other factors such as prevention and hair-loss solutions will vary depending on the root cause of the problem. Some of the types of hair loss that you can experience include:

  • Gradual thinning of the hair on top of your head
  • Sudden loosening of handfuls of hair
  • Circular or patchy bald spots
  • Scaling and hair loss spreading over the scalp
  • Full body hair loss 

As we mentioned above, different conditions can lead to hair loss. According to the Cleveland Clinic4, some of the most common causes of hair loss include:

  • Androgenic alopecia: As we mentioned above, this type of hair loss typically has a strong association with genetic traits, and it features a receding hairline and thinning on the crown of the head.
  • Telogen effluvium: This condition usually happens some weeks or months after an episode of physical or emotional stress, and it causes your hair to shed rapidly.
  • Alopecia areata: This is an autoimmune condition in which your immune system attacks your own body, resulting in head and body hair loss.
  • Anagen effluvium: This type of rapid hair loss can result from using certain medications, such as some chemotherapy drugs.
  • Ringworm: A ringworm scalp infection can result in kerion, which causes soft, raised lesions that drain pus and lose hair easily.

Who is more likely to have hair loss?

Although it’s difficult to know the exact number of people that suffer from hair loss around the world, it has been estimated that nearly 85% of men and 55% of women will experience some type of hair loss at some point in their lives.

Androgenic alopecia is the most common cause of hair loss, and it has been estimated to affect up to 80 million people in the US. This condition is more likely to affect men over the age of 40 years old; however, anyone can develop it, especially if they have genetic risk factors.

What can you do to prevent hair loss?

The first thing you need to do to prevent hair loss is to discuss your case with a healthcare professional. They’ll be able to assess physical findings, lab test results, and your personal and family history to determine whether you need to worry about hair loss. In some cases, your healthcare provider could rely on additional testing, such as whole genome sequencing, to get a clearer picture of your hair loss risk.

Some of the steps that can help stop hair loss include5:

  • Eating additional protein to boost hair growth, especially if you eat a plant-based diet.
  • Taking vitamin and mineral supplements, such as vitamins A, B, C, D, E, zinc, and iron.
  • Following a Mediterranean diet, with lots of healthy fats, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, and nuts.
  • Maintaining good hair and scalp hygiene and hydration regimes.
  • Using over-the-counter hair loss treatments, such as topical minoxidil.
  • Getting low-level laser light therapy on your scalp from a licensed provider.

In addition to minoxidil, hair loss treatments include prescription medications such as finasteride, spironolactone, and dutasteride. In some cases, patients may opt for more invasive treatment options, such as hair transplant surgery.

Genetic testing and hair loss 

You can use’s Whole Genome Sequencing service to identify genetic variants associated with hair loss and assess your predisposition to alopecia, especially at a young age.

Working with your healthcare provider, you can take your DNA data and use it to determine the best plan to prevent hair loss. Modern research6 has developed algorithms that can be used to analyze genetic traits and accurately predict your risk of severe hair loss.

Thanks to whole genome sequencing, you can also determine whether you’ll need to use certain hair loss treatments at an earlier age to slow down the condition from worsening. It’s very difficult to fully prevent or stop hair loss, especially if you have a high genetic predisposition. However, taking preventative measures can make a difference in the development of this condition.

Get sequenced at now and discover your risk of hair loss and many other conditions.


  1. Hair loss - Symptoms and causes. (2022, March 26). Mayo Clinic. 
  2. Hagenaars, S. P., Hill, W. D., Harris, S. E., Ritchie, S. J., Davies, G., Liewald, D. C., Gale, C. R., Porteous, D. J., Deary, I. J., & Marioni, R. E. (2017). Genetic prediction of male pattern baldness. PLoS genetics, 13(2), e1006594. 
  3. Heilmann-Heimbach, S., Herold, C., Hochfeld, L. M., Hillmer, A. M., Nyholt, D. R., Hecker, J., Javed, A., Chew, E. G., Pechlivanis, S., Drichel, D., Heng, X. T., Del Rosario, R. C., Fier, H. L., Paus, R., Rueedi, R., Galesloot, T. E., Moebus, S., Anhalt, T., Prabhakar, S., Li, R., … Nöthen, M. M. (2017). Meta-analysis identifies novel risk loci and yields systematic insights into the biology of male-pattern baldness. Nature communications, 8, 14694. 
  4. Hair Loss: Causes, Treatments and Prevention Options. (n.d.). Cleveland Clinic. 
  5. 6 Ways To Stop Hair Loss. (2022, July 7). Cleveland Clinic. 
  6. Hagenaars, S. P., Hill, W. D., Harris, S. E., Ritchie, S. J., Davies, G., Liewald, D. C., Gale, C. R., Porteous, D. J., Deary, I. J., & Marioni, R. E. (2017). Genetic prediction of male pattern baldness. PLoS genetics, 13(2), e1006594.

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