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June 2018

Minoxidil for Endocrine Therapy–Induced Alopecia in Women With Breast Cancer—Saint Agatha’s Blessing?

Author Affiliations
  • 1Center for Dermatology and Hair Diseases, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
JAMA Dermatol. 2018;154(6):656-658. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2018.0453

Guard us against breast cancer and other afflictions of women, and inspire us to overcome adversity.

From a prayer to St Agatha of Sicily, Patron Saint for women with breast cancer

Worldwide, breast cancer is the most common invasive cancer in women, affecting about 12%.1 The incidence has significantly increased since the 1970s; however, with the advances and sophistication in diagnosis and treatment, survival rates have become high, with between 80% and 90% of patients with breast cancer alive for at least 5 years. Nevertheless, the emotional impact of cancer diagnosis, symptoms, treatment, and related issues may be severe. Among the issues with a significant effect on quality of life are hair loss and thinning related to cancer treatment. Hair loss negatively affects an individual’s perception of appearance, body image, sexuality, and self-esteem. Moreover, patients feel deprived of their privacy because the hair loss is readily interpreted by the public as associated with having cancer. The impact is known from chemotherapy-induced alopecia (CIA). A survey demonstrated that 47% of female patients with cancer considered CIA the most traumatic aspect of chemotherapy,2 and 8% would even decline chemotherapy because of fear of hair loss.3