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J R Soc Med. 2001 October; 94(10): 549.
PMCID: PMC1282222

Hair and Its Disorders: Biology, Pathology and Management

Reviewed by Barry Monk

Editors: FM Camacho, V A Randall, V H Price
407 pp Price £75 ISBN 1-85317-799-7 (h/b)
London: Martin Dunitz, 2000 .

Hair has an extraordinary and inexplicable psychological importance. Patients with cancer about to undergo chemotherapy are commonly more concerned about the possibility of hair loss than almost any other aspect of their treatment or diagnosis, whilst hair care is a multibillion pound industry worldwide. Additionally, since hair is such a concern to many, it may be a hair problem that is the first presentation of internal disease; all medical students know of the association between hair loss and myxoedema, even if they have never seen a case. In fact hair disorders—hair loss, hypertrichosis, hirsutism and hair-shaft abnormalities—may be the presenting feature of a wide range of genetic, metabolic, and toxic disorders.

Twenty years ago, a book devoted to hair biology and hair disorders would have been both short and dull. Lately there has been an explosive growth in knowledge which we owe partly to the generous funding of basic research by the cosmetic industry and partly to application of the new techniques of molecular science. Hair and its Disorders brings together a wealth of new and exciting information. The three editors, from Spain, California, and Bradford (UK) have assembled most of the leading experts, both medical and scientific, the 49 contributors coming from four continents. The contributions are well organized and the occasional unevenness of style does not detract from the overall impact. The range of the book is astonishing. For the clinician there are well illustrated and well referenced chapters on hair syndrome recognition and on important genodermatoses, and extensive coverage of alopecia areata. This important disorder is also well covered in terms of our basic immunological understanding. A few chapters are not of immediate practical application but are so well written as to be fascinating in their own right; in this category I would place the contributions on Menke's kinky-hair syndrome (a rare metabolic disorder with lethal consequences) and hair follicle innervation in alopecia areata. The basic biology of the hair is likewise covered in detail, with informative accounts of the hair cycle, androgen effect and so on.

I doubt that there is a better book on this subject, and warmly recommend Hair and its Disorders to all dermatologists. It is also likely to become indispensable to geneticists, developmental paediatricians and endocrinologists; and skin biologists, whether in the cosmetic industry or not, will find much to interest them.

Articles from Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine are provided here courtesy of Royal Society of Medicine Press