A method that has been used for some 40 years in Europe to reduce hair loss during chemotherapy, which consists of cooling the scalp with a cold cap, has finally been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use by cancer patients in the US. The method was met for the longest time with resistance from healthcare professionals and general public opinion as it was suspected to reduce the efficacy of chemotherapy in the cooled area, possibly increasing the risk of metastases to the scalp. A study of some 1,400 patients and a systematic review of nearly 50,000 breast cancer patients found no difference in scalp metastasis risk between women that employed scalp cooling and those that did not.
It is important to note though that most breast cancer patients who receive a Docetaxel- Doxorubicin- Cyclophosphamide combination therapy receive no benefit from scalp cooling. Over all, about 50% of women that used scalp cooling significantly reduced or prevented hair loss. As chemotherapy-induced hair loss (also known as alopecia) can have detrimental psychological effects on patients, and wearing a wig may not always be very practical, scalp cooling may for some patients be yet another important tool to standing up to cancer (Cancer Epigenetics Society news, May 9, 2016).