Drug reverses hair loss caused by radiation for brain, head, neck cancers
Treatment with topical minoxidil helps restore hair loss caused by radiation treatment for brain tumors and other head and neck cancers, a study published Wednesday by JAMA Dermatology found.
Twenty-eight of 34 patients treated with the drug after radiation therapy experienced hair regrowth in as little as three weeks, researchers said.
Minoxidil is an over-the-counter medication approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for hair regrowth in men and women.
The patients suffered from persistent radiation-induced alopecia, or hair loss, as a result of cancer treatment, the researchers said.
The hair loss from radiation is "a dose-dependent phenomenon," and was linked specifically to higher doses of radiation applied to the scalp, researchers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York said.
In addition, the radiation therapy was associated with a six-fold increase in the risk for hair loss, the researchers said.
Although this kind of hair loss varies in severity and duration, it can be particularly pronounced in patients who undergo treatment for brain tumors, spinal tumors and head and neck cancers, such as throat cancer, because radiation often targets the area on or near the scalp, according to the study authors.
In the study, researchers evaluated 70 patients who ranged from age 4 to 75, who had either a central nervous system tumor or a form of head and neck cancer.
Forty of the 70 patients had moderate, or grade 1, hair loss, while 29 had evidence of "localized" -- confined to the area treated with radiation -- hair loss and 25 showed diffuse or mixed hair loss patterns, the researchers said.
In addition to the successful treatment with minoxidil, two patients responded well to hair transplantation and one patient responded well to plastic surgical scalp reconstruction, researchers said.
"These findings may inform pre-therapy counseling and efforts to identify preventive and therapeutic strategies, including randomized clinical trials in cancer survivors, for this burdensome [complication]," the authors wrote.