Minoxidil: does it have anti-androgenic effects?
It's clear that blocking androgens has an important role in treating male balding. So the question arises then does a commonly used treatment for male balding - minoxidil (Rogaine) - block androgens? The answer first appeared to be no, but recent studies suggest that there may be some anti- androgenic effect
Minoxidil: From 1987 to the present day.
Minoxidil was FDA approved in 1987 for the treatment of balding. In fact it remains the only topical treatment for balding approved by the FDA. Initial studies have shown that it does not have anti-androgenic effects.
A look back at a study from 1987
A well known study from 1987 looked at the effects of minoxidil in animal studies. Using hamsters, researchers examined changes in androgen-dependent skin structures of the flank organ. In that study, topical minoxidil had no androgenic effect. Even when silastic capsules filled with crystalline testosterone were placed in the skin, neither 1% nor 5% minoxidil topically applied for three weeks prevented the androgen-dependent growth of skin structures. It was concluded in this study that minoxidil does not function as an anti-androgen.
A 2014 study raises possibility of anti-androgenic effect
In a new study, researchers in Taiwan showed that minoxidil may block the function of the androgen receptor and blocked the function of certain cells that were dependent on androgens for growth. Minoxidil might make the androgen receptor less stable (the key receptor that binds androgen hormones) and some of these changes may come about by the actual binding of minoxidil to the androgen receptor.
The original studies studies that suggested minoxidil is not an anti-androgen need to be reviewed together with recent data that there may be some anti - androgenic effects of minoxidil. There is accumulating evidence that there may be some antiandrogenic effects via the effects of minoxidil on the androgen receptor
Barbara A. Nuck et al.Topical Minoxidil Does Not Act as an Antiandrogen in the Flank Organ of the Golden Syrian Hamster. Arch Dermatol. 1987;123(1):59-61.
Cheng Lung et al. Minoxidil may suppress androgen receptor-related functions Oncotarget. 2014 Apr 30; 5(8): 2187–2197.
Dr. Jeff Donovan is a Canadian and US board certified dermatologist specializing exclusively in hair loss. To schedule a consultation, please call the Vancouver office at 604.283.9299