Chemotherapy-induced Hair Loss

R. M. Trüeb, MD


Skin Therapy Letter. 2010;15(7):5-7. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Chemotherapy-induced hair loss occurs with an estimated incidence of 65%. Forty-seven percent of female patients consider hair loss to be the most traumatic aspect of chemotherapy and 8% would decline chemotherapy due to fears of hair loss. At present, no approved pharmacologic intervention exists to circumvent this side-effect of anticancer treatment, though a number of agents have been investigated on the basis of the current understanding of the underlying pathobiology. Among the agents that have been evaluated, topical minoxidil was able to reduce the severity or shorten the duration, but it did not prevent hair loss. The major approach to minimize chemotherapy-induced hair loss is by scalp cooling, though most published data on this technique are of poor quality. Fortunately, the condition is usually reversible, and appropriate hair and scalp care along with temporarily wearing a wig may represent the most effective coping strategy. However, some patients may show changes in color and/or texture of regrown hair, and in limited cases the reduction in density may persist.


Chemotherapy-induced hair loss is considered to be one of the most traumatic factors in cancer patient care. Hair loss can negatively impact individual perceptions of appearance, body image, sexuality, and self-esteem, as well as deprive patients of their privacy, because this treatment-related outcome is readily associated with having cancer by the lay public. Forty-seven percent of female cancer patients consider hair loss to be the most traumatic aspect of chemotherapy and 8% would even decline treatment for fear of this impending side-effect.[1,2]


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