[Infographic] Bald does not equal cancer: Understanding alopecia areata


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When those of us blessed with a full head of hair see a woman with thinning or no hair, our first instinct is usually to assume that she is suffering from cancer or another life-threatening illness. This is why the people behind the nonprofit Bald Girls Do Lunch are raising awareness and understanding for alopecia areata with this handy infographic.

(Click on image above to view larger PDF.)

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease that affects about 4 million Americans of both sexes, all ages and all ethnic backgrounds. The immune system of alopecia sufferers mistakenly attacks the hair follicles — thinking they are foreign invaders, such as viruses or bacteria — which can lead to hair loss on the scalp and other parts of the body.

Scientists are still not sure what causes alopecia but suspect that those who develop it may be predisposed to it thanks to a certain combination of genes. So, if you have a family member with the disease, you are more likely to develop it yourself. Some sort of trigger in the person’s environment is believed to then bring on the attack against hair follicles.

The good news is that alopecia is not life-threatening. However, the emotional toll of losing some or all of one’s hair can be severe. If you or someone you know has alopecia, do not be afraid to seek support.