Impact of scalp cooling on chemotherapy-induced alopecia, wig use and hair growth of patients with cancer

Published:April 08, 2013DOI:



      Cytotoxic therapy for patients with cancer frequently induces reversible, but long-lasting alopecia which might be prevented by scalp cooling. This study evaluates the effectiveness of scalp cooling with respect to the severity of chemotherapy-induced alopecia (CIA) and the purchase and use of wigs and head covers.

      Materials and methods

      In this observational study, scalp-cooled patients (n = 160) were compared with non scalp-cooled patients (n = 86) with several types of cancer. Patients were enrolled in 15, mostly general hospitals prior to taxane and/or anthracycline-based chemotherapy. Patients completed four questionnaires between the start and one year after the last chemotherapy.


      Severity of CIA, and purchasing and actually wearing wigs and head covers were significantly lower among scalp-cooled than non scalp-cooled patients. Overall, scalp cooling reduced the use of wigs and head covers by 40%. Among 84 scalp-cooled patients who purchased a wig (53%), only 52 patients actually wore it (62%), and they just wore it intensively (86% daily) for less than six months (80%). Especially young patients camouflaged CIA with a head cover instead of a wig.


      The relatively long duration of CIA, the wish of many patients to camouflage or rather prevent it and the 40% reduction for head covering by scalp cooling, makes it a worthwhile supportive intervention. However, (cost-) effectiveness can be improved. Many scalp-cooled patients purchased a wig unnecessarily.


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