Articles Tagged with: cancer
cold caps chemotherapy

Cold Caps for Preventing Hair Loss During Chemotherapy

cold caps chemotherapyFighting cancer is one of the most taxing mental and physical struggles an individual can undergo. For women with breast cancer, hair loss is one of the most traumatic side effects of chemotherapy. New research published on the mid-February issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) shows that cold caps can lessen the potential for hair loss during cancer treatment, thus boosting patients’ quality of life and emotional well-being.

Two studies analyzed the DigniCap, the only cooling cap approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Paxman, which is currently under FDA review.

Patients were fitted with the DigniCap 30 minutes before a chemotherapy session. The cap, currently available at infusion centers across 17 states, keeps the scalp at a cool 37 degrees Fahrenheit. Although researchers haven’t specifically determined what makes these cold caps work, some believe they constrict the blood vessels on the scalp to slow blood circulation. Lack of blood flow limits toxin exposure that would otherwise harm hair follicles in the fight to eradicate sarcoma cells. Another theory is that because chemotherapy fights rapidly developing cells, cold caps could limit follicle growth and expansion, leaving them less likely to be targeted during treatment.

Over two-thirds of women with stage I or II breast cancer lost less than 50 percent of their hair following use of the DigniCap and four rounds of taxane chemotherapy. The 16 women who did not use the cap lost all their hair during treatment.

In the Paxman system study, half of the women lost less than half their hair following four rounds of anthracycline and taxane chemotherapy. Five women had no significant hair loss whatsoever, and the 47 patients who did not use Paxman cold caps lost all their hair. Currently, the Paxman is not available for medical commercial use in the U.S.  

Neither device showed any serious side effects aside from mild headaches due to the low temperature. One potential risk is that stopping treatment from reaching the scalp could allow cancer cells to spread there, but more research needs to be done to make such conclusions.

Right now, cold caps cost between $1,500 to $3,000, depending on the number of chemotherapy treatments needed. For those coping with chemotherapy-induced alopecia, cold caps could prevent drastic hair loss to keep patients’ self-confidence and resolve intact. But, more research must be done to evaluate the risk versus reward.

Is Baldness Linked with Aggressive Prostate Cancer?

Is Baldness Linked with Aggressive Prostate Cancer?Men who exhibit signs of balding may want to consider having a prostate exam sooner, rather than later. According to a new study published by the Journal of Clinical Oncology in late 2014, men who showed certain signs of baldness were more likely to develop an aggressive form of prostate cancer.

In the study, researchers point to two specific signs of baldness that men around age 45 should watch: Thinning frontal hairlines, and balding crowns. Based on the research, men who exhibited these signs of hair loss were up to 40% more like to develop prostate cancer compared to men of the same age who still had a full head of hair.

Diagnosis with the Norwood Classification

The Norwood Scale is a common method of diagnosing male pattern baldness. The scale maps the typical progression of hair loss in men, beginning with the slightest signs of thinning at the temporal regions (see Stage 1 below). In this study, the men who experienced a 40% greater risk of prostate cancer were classified as a Stage 3 or higher, using the chart above.

Is there cause for concern? According to one physician, the findings are probably not coincidental. However, more studies are needed to get a better idea of exactly how balding and prostate cancer might be linked. “The evidence is too provisional,” says Dr. Michael Cook, a senior study author and a National Cancer Institute (NCI) investigator. “We think that certain factors, such as genetics and male hormones, may underlie both [conditions]” (i).

Hair Loss Evaluation

For more information on hair loss evaluations in Miami, contact the Hair Transplant Institute of Miami at 305-925-0222.



Does Finasteride Cause Cancer?

Does Finasteride Cause CancerFinasteride (brand name Propecia®) is known among male hair loss sufferers as a powerful prescription medication capable of ceasing hair loss. Like all prescription medicines, Propecia is not without side effects. Most know that the medication may cause sexual side effects for the men who take it regularly. But are men also at risk of developing breast cancer?

Physicians have long prescribed Finasteride, and in some cases Dutasteride, to treat symptoms of enlarged prostate in men, or benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH). As a 5-alpha reductase inhibitor, the medicine also helped to cease hair loss in subjects by warding off the chemical reaction that researchers believe causes hair follicles to stop producing hair. However, post-marketing data demonstrated some risk. Specifically, rare reports indicated that male breast cancer were a side effect of Finasteride treatment. For this reason, among others, Finasteride was considered dangerous to prescribe to women. Today, most hair transplant surgeons still steer women clear of Finasteride medication, recommending alternative surgical and non-surgical treatments for hair loss.

Despite rare reports of male breast cancer in men who took the popular BPH/ hair loss drug, the FDA approved Finasteride as a treatment for male pattern baldness in 1997. Now, nearly 15 years later, a study published in the Journal of Urology indicates that there is no link between Finasteride and breast cancer in men.

Study Finds No Link Between Finasteride and Breast Cancer

A new study published in the May 2013 Journal of Urology has men who take Finasteride breathing a long anticipated sigh of relief. According to the study, there appears to be no link between the onset of breast cancer and 5-alpha reductase inhibitors, like Finasteride (Propecia®).

The finding is the result of over 10 years of study, during which researchers identified 339 men ages 40-85 who had breast cancer. Approximately 20 controls were identified per subject, amounting to more than 6,500 total. Using those controls, researchers were able to calculate the rate ratio for male breast cancer during regular exposure to 5-alpha reductase inhibitors using conditional logistic regression.

Summarizing the results of the landmark study, researchers report, “No statistically significant associations were observed between 5-alpha reductase inhibitors and breast cancer.”

Side Effects of Finasteride

Finasteride still has side effects, however. Clinical trials indicate that men who take Finasteride might suffer from a number of sexual side effects, including:

  • Loss of sex drive/ decreased libido
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Decreased ejaculate volume

Notably, Finasteride side effects tend to fade and disappear entirely once the drug is no longer taken. In a 2012 study, researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that the negative side effects of Finasteride might persist long after use is discontinued. That study was conducted with Propecia®, specifically, and it is important to note that the sample size was very small, consisting of fewer than 100 subjects. Follow-up studies are needed to assess the danger of long-term side effects.

For more information, readers are invited to visit our What is Finasteride reference.

Timing of Radiation Therapy May Influence Hair Loss

More than 12 million Americans suffer with cancer, according to reports by the American Cancer Society. For many, radiation therapy is an effective method of preventing the spread of cancerous cells while also working to eliminate them entirely. Radiation therapy is known to harm healthy cells, however, which may cause a variety of side effects including hair loss.

For patients who experience hair loss during radiation therapy, new research suggests administering the treatment later in the day might mitigate such side effects. Scientists hope the study will provide a foundation for future research on further managing the toxic side effects of radiation therapy. For patients, the study provides hope that the unwanted side effects of cancer treatment, like hair loss, can be mitigated.

Managing the Toxic Effects of Radiation Therapy

Nearly half of all cancer patients will encounter radiation therapy as part of their treatment protocol, according to the National Cancer Institute (i). For some, radiation therapy is an effective means of managing, and ultimately killing, cancerous cells. Radiation therapy comes with a price, however.

Radiation therapy exposes the body to large amounts of high-energy radiation like x-rays, gamma rays, and other charged particles. These particles course through the patient’s body, seeking to shrink and kill cancer cells. Radiation cannot distinguish between cancer cells and healthy ones, however, and modern medicine has not yet developed a way to effectively hyper-target radiation to specific malignant cells. As a result, healthy cells are often killed along with cancerous ones.

Researchers from USC, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, and the University of California, Irvine (UCI) believe the toxic side effects of radiation therapy can be managed, however. Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, their study evaluated the hair loss experienced by laboratory mice following radiation therapy at different times of day. Specifically, mice that received early morning radiation therapy lost approximately 85% of their body hair, whereas those treated later in the day lost as little as 17% (ii).

Researchers say the difference in hair loss is due to the circadian rhythm of the hair cells themselves. Most commonly referred to as an internal clock, the circadian rhythm of individual cells determines when biological processes are active (awake) or subdued (asleep). In the study above, researchers found the hair circadian rhythm of the mice to be inactive in the mornings and active in the evenings, a pattern that might account for the substantial difference in the hair loss exhibited by each test group.

Satchidananda Panda, co-lead investigator and associate professor in Salk’s Regulatory Biology Laboratory, explains (iii):

“Delivering a drug to an organ while it is largely inactive is not a good idea. You could do more damage to the organ than when it is awake, repairing and restoring itself. If you know when an organ is mending itself, you might be able to deliver more potent doses of a drug or therapy. That might offer a better outcome while minimizing side effects.”

This health report has been produced by the Hair Transplant Institute of Miami. For additional information on our Institute, including hair loss evaluation and consultation services, readers are invited to contact our office directly at 1-877-443-9070.


(i) “Radiation Therapy for Cancer.” National Cancer Institute. Accessed 30 May 2013.

(ii) “Timing of Radiation Therapy May Minimize Hair Loss.” Health Canal. Accessed 30 May 2013.

(iii) See above.