Can Hair Loss Be Avoided During Chemotherapy?

Scalp cooling technology seeks to ensure hair retention in most instances.

Scalp cooling technology seeks to ensure hair retention in most instances.

With the loss of hair during chemotherapy representing one of the more depressing side effects for patients, researchers are seeking methods for increasing the retention of hair during treatment.

Investigators at the University of Huddersfield recently established the scientific basis for a scalp cooling technology that can reduce hair loss in a number of cases. Increasing the retention of hair can provide the additional benefit of improving the mental health of patients, which can help in boosting their immune systems, according to the study.

Additionally, the study noted that 8% of patients refuse chemotherapy over the fear of hair loss.

"Mood relates to hormonal release and that can affect the function of the immune system,” project lead Nikolaos Georgopoulos, MD, said in a press release. “Positivity can have an effect - there are scientific papers which suggest that it affects the efficacy of the treatment. So if you look in a mirror and feel good about yourself because you have a full head of hair, that is a big psychological boost that can help people through their treatment."

Scalp coolers, which have to date been used on more than 100,000 patients in 32 countries, can potentially eliminate hair loss in approximately half of all cases, according to the study.

The researchers note a number of causes for the effectiveness of cooling, which include a lower scalp temperature that results in significantly less blood flow to the area and decreases the amount of the drug that makes it to hair follicles. The effect of cooling can also lessen the drug uptake level in the region of hair cells.

Progress has been achieved in establishing why the cooling procedure works, as researchers continue to evaluate its effectiveness and limitations across different drug combinations that are utilized during chemotherapy.

The researchers hope that scalp cooling will become a routine part of chemotherapy and will be an established part of nurse training.

"We are delighted with the results of the University of Huddersfield research and are extremely excited that it is being presented at this year's International Breast Cancer Conference,” Richard Paxman, managing director of the Paxman Firm, said in a press release. “Every day we hear personal stories from patients and their families about the positive results of scalp cooling so it is great to see clinical evidence to back this up."