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Support Care Cancer. 2008 Mar;16(3):267-73. Epub 2007 Aug 7.

Chemotherapy-induced dermatological toxicity: frequencies and impact on quality of life in women's cancers. Results of a prospective study.

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Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Charité, Campus Virchow-Klinikum, University Hospital, Berlin, Germany.



The study aimed to determine the prevalence of dermatological side effects and its impact on quality of life in patients receiving systemic chemotherapy for women's cancers.


A prospective study was conducted on patients with histologically confirmed advanced women's cancers who were deemed candidates for adjuvant or palliative chemotherapy. Patients were systemically examined for skin, hair, and nail side effects. The impact of those side effects on their quality of life was assessed using the health-related quality of life score (HRQL).


Between April 2001 and October 2001, 91 patients received 1 to 17 (median 4) courses of chemotherapy. Malignancies included breast cancer (n = 39, 43%), ovarian cancer (n = 32, 35%), cervical cancer (n = 12, 13%), endometrial cancer (n = 5, 6%), fallopian tube cancer (n = 2, 2%), and vaginal cancer (n = 1, 1%). Chemotherapy agents included taxanes (n = 42, 46%), PEG doxorubicin (n = 17, 7%), other anthracyclines (epirubicin and doxorubicin; n = 6, 19%), topotecan (n = 13, 14%), and other agents (n = 13, 14%). Overall incidence of skin, nail, and hair side effects was 86.8% (n = 79). Seventeen patients (18.7%) developed a palmo-plantar erythrodysesthesia (PPE), and nine of those (53%) were of grade 3 in common toxicity criteria scale (NCI). Twenty-one patients (23.1%) developed nail changes such as subungual hematomas, onycholysis, and leukonychias or nail loss, while 69 (75.8%) developed hair loss. There was a higher incidence of PPE in patients receiving chemotherapy for palliation rather than cure (percent over percent, p < 0.001, Fisher's exact test). Using the HRQL score, skin changes were the most frequently reported unpleasant side effect (34.1%), and of those patients who developed PPE, this was reported by n = 8 (47%) as the most unpleasant.


Dermatological chemotherapy side effects are frequent after treatment of women's cancers and have a major impact on quality of life as assessed by HRQL. Counseling of patients with women's cancers and the profile of side effects of chemotherapeutic agents should be considered before considering an adjuvant or palliative chemotherapy regimen.

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