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Breast Cancer Patients on Aromatase Inhibitors: Risk of Hair loss Increased

Risk of hair loss increased two fold

Aromatase inhibitors are a group of medications used to treat breast and ovarian cancer. Common names of these drugs include Anastrozole (Arimidex), Letrozole (Femara), Exemestane (Aromasin), Vorozole (Rivizor), Formestane (Lentaron), Fadrozole (Afema). Over the past few years we've come to realize that these medications can cause hair loss in some women.

 

How do these medications cause hair loss?

Aromatase inhibitors cause hair loss because they reduce the levels of estrogen and increase the levels of testosterone. Both of these can contribute to hair loss.

 

New study quantifies risk of hair loss

A new study published in the journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment  examined the association between aromatase inhibitor treatment and hair loss or hair thinning among female breast cancer survivors. Records were analyzed from 851 female breast cancer survivors. The results showed that 22.4 % of the breast cancer survivors reported hair loss and 31.8 % reported hair thinning. In addition,  breast cancer survivors who were within 2 years of starting aromatase inhibitor treatment at the time of survey completion were approximately two and a half times more likely to report reporting hair loss  or hair thinning  within the past 4 weeks compared to those who were never treated with these drugs. 

 This study adds to a growing body of literature showing that aromatase inhibitor use is associated with an increased risk of hair loss and hair thinning

 

Treatment Options: Minoxidil and Hair Transplantation.

Few studies have been done examining the optimal treatment plan. However, I have used minoxidil and hair transplantation to restore density in many patients with aromatase inhibitor induced hair loss. More studies are needed 

 

Reference

Gallicchio L et al. Aromatase inhibitor therapy and hair loss among breast cancer survivors. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2013 Nov;142(2):435-43.  

 


Dr. Jeff Donovan is a Canadian and US board certified dermatologist specializing exclusively in hair loss. To schedule a consultation, please call the Vancouver office at 604.283.9299



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