Clinicopathologic Characteristics and Response to Treatment of Persistent Chemotherapy-Induced Alopecia in Breast Cancer Survivors

Bevin Bhoyrul, Leila Asfour, Gerhard Lutz, Lorne Mitchell, Rebekka Jerjen, Rodney D. Sinclair, Susan Holmes, Iskander H. Chaudhry, Matthew J. Harries

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Importance: Alopecia induced by classic chemotherapy affects up to 65% of patients and is usually reversible. However, there are increasing reports of persistent chemotherapy-induced alopecia (pCIA), especially for patients treated with taxane-containing chemotherapy regimens. Objective: To analyze the clinicopathologic characteristics and response to treatment of patients with pCIA after chemotherapy for breast cancer. Design, Setting, and Participants: In this case series, a retrospective evaluation was performed of patients with a diagnosis of pCIA after chemotherapy for breast cancer in 4 specialist hair clinics from November 1, 2011, to February 29, 2020. Main Outcomes and Measures: Clinical, trichoscopic, and histopathologic characteristics and treatment outcomes were analyzed. For patients who presented with diffuse alopecia or diffuse rarefaction of hair over the midfrontal scalp with widening of the central part line and preservation of the frontal hairline, the Sinclair scale (grades 1-5, where 1 indicates normal hair density and 5 indicates the most severe stage of hair loss, with little or no hair in the centroparietal region) was used to assess severity. Results: One hundred patients (99 women [99%]; mean age at presentation, 54.0 years [range, 29.0-74.1 years]) were included. Most patients had diffuse nonscarring alopecia (n = 39), female pattern hair loss (n = 55), or male pattern hair loss (n = 6). Six patients developed cicatricial alopecia. Taxane-containing regimens were used for most patients (92 [92%]) and were associated with more severe alopecia than regimens that did not contain taxanes (median Sinclair grade, 4 [IQR, 3-5] vs 2 [IQR, 2-2.5]; P <.001). A total of 76 of 86 patients (88%) had trichoscopic signs indistinguishable from those of androgenetic alopecia. Of 18 patients who had biopsies, 14 had androgenetic alopecia-like features, 2 had cicatricial alopecia, and 2 had features of both. Both topical and oral minoxidil, sometimes combined with antiandrogen therapy, were associated with an improvement in hair density (median Sinclair grade, 4 [IQR, 3-5] before treatment vs 3 [IQR, 2-4] after treatment; P <.001). Conclusions and Relevance: This case series outlines previously unreported features of pCIA in patients with breast cancer, including a trichoscopic description. Cosmetically significant regrowth was achieved for a significant proportion of patients with topical or systemic treatments, suggesting that pCIA may be at least partly reversible.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1335-1342
Number of pages8
JournalJAMA dermatology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021


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