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Estrogen and Progesterone Receptors in Androgenic Alopecia Versus Alopecia Areata

Wallace, Michael L. M.D.; Smoller, Bruce R. M.D.

The American Journal of Dermatopathology: April 1998 - Volume 20 - Issue 2 - p 160-163

In some situations, hair growth is under hormonal control. Androgenic alopecia is characterized as hormonally driven hair loss in the genetically susceptible individual. During pregnancy, hair growth is increased, as estrogen appears to prolong the anagen phase. However, postpartum hair loss is common, and thus may be related to a decrease in estrogen and or progesterone levels. In contrast, alopecia areata is not considered to be under hormonal control. We compared the immunohistochemical staining characteristics of nine cases of androgenic alopecia with those of 13 cases of alopecia areata using estrogen receptor (ER) and progesterone receptor (PR) markers. Estrogen receptor positivity in the dermal papilla was found in only two of 13 cases of alopecia areata, and in one case of androgenic alopecia. Six of 13 cases of alopecia areata demonstrated focal reactivity with the progesterone marker in a similar location, while only three cases of androgenic alopecia showed positivity with this antibody. Examination of the perifollicular fibroblasts for the ER marker showed positivity in one of 13 cases of alopecia areata and in one case of androgenic alopecia. Two cases of alopecia areata revealed focal staining in this location for the PR marker, while the androgenic alopecia cases failed to stain. These results indicate that estrogen and progesterone receptor expression is not significantly increased or decreased in the pilosebaceous units or surrounding mesenchymal cells in androgenic alopecia vs. alopecia areata. Therefore, an indirectly mediated process of estrogen/progesterone control on hair growth and development must be presumed for cases of androgenic alopecia.

From the Department of Pathology and Dermatology, Medical College of Virginia/Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia (M.L.W.) and the Department of Pathology and Dermatology, Stanford University Medical Center, Stanford, California, U.S.A. (B.R.S.).

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. B.R. Smoller, Department of Pathology H2110, Stanford University Medical Center, 300 Pasteur Drive, Stanford, CA 94305, U.S.A.

© Lippincott-Raven Publishers