Diet & Nutrition

Scalp cooling cap may prevent hair loss during chemotherapy

A clinical trial has offered promising results.

By Amber Manto
In Australia alone, 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will be diagnosed with cancer by the age of 85. Of those, many undergo chemotherapy in their journey to recovery.
The rigorous cancer treatment often causes distress for many due to the inevitable hair loss associated, however, a new invention may soon spare cancer patients of this heartbreaking side effect.
Enter the silicone cooling cap, a new device which chills the scalp as the treatment is administered.
A clinical trial of the cap by the Baylor College of Medicine involving 182 women with early-stage breast cancer offered promising results.
The women were categorised into two groups: those who were to receive scalp-cooling before, during and after treatment, and those who would not receive any.
Of those who were underwent the cooling treatment, more than half retained their hair though some suffered thinning. Those who did not receive the cooling treatment all lost their hair.
Lead researcher Dr Julie Rani Nangia, assistant professor of medicine at Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center at Baylor College of Medicine, said: “Chemotherapy fights cancer by attacking rapidly dividing tumour cells. However, hair cells also divide rapidly so the drugs target them as well, which is what causes alopecia.”
This is why the cap is so effective. It works by lowering the temperature of the scalp to 18C and 22C, causing blood vessels to constrict which ultimately reduces blood circulation. It is believed this limits how much of the toxic chemotherapy drugs are absorbed by the hair follicles, therefore reducing the possibility of damage.
“Fear of hair loss has been known to make women avoid chemotherapy or try unproven alternative treatments, so it is good that we now have something proven to offer them.”

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