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Popular baldness drug linked to male breast cancer Add to ...

A popular drug used by men across the country to treat pattern baldness could come with an unwanted side effect: an increased risk of breast cancer.

Although the apparent risks are low, Health Canada issued a warning Thursday telling consumers the drug, finasteride, could be potentially dangerous. The drug, which comes in one-milligram and five-milligram formats, is used in the lower dose to treat baldness and the higher dose to treat non-cancerous enlarged prostate. Previous studies have raised flags about the five-milligram format, sold in Canada under the brand name Proscar, including an increased risk of prostate cancer.

Health Canada says a small number of breast-cancer cases have been reported worldwide among patients who took the drug in either dose. Previous research has found the drug can lead to prolonged sexual dysfunction, prompting men in Canada and the United States to sue drug maker Merck & Co. Inc.

The warning raises questions about whether men will stick with the medication, sold under the one-milligram format as Propecia, if they are using it for purely cosmetic reasons.

Many other drugs, procedures and treatments come with a serious risk of side effects or health problems, but there continues to be a market for them, highlighting the lengths some will go for the sake of appearances.

Last fall, Health Canada warned consumers that the wildly popular Brazilian-style blowout hair treatments contain levels of formaldehyde, which has been linked to cancer, that exceed federal standards. Yet there continues to be a market for the products around the world.

Botox treatments can cause toxins to spread to distant parts of the body, which can lead to death, muscle weakness, swallowing problems, pneumonia, speech disorders and breathing problems.

A host of diet pills that have been on the market in recent decades have been linked to everything from an higher risk of death to increased heart rate. Although some people take diet pills to treat life-threatening obesity, they have been popular for years among women and men looking to stay trim.

That’s not to mention invasive cosmetic procedures, from facelifts to liposuction, that continue to be sought after by those unhappy with their appearances.

How much are you willing to put your health at risk just to look good?

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