Efficacy of interventions for prevention of chemotherapy-induced alopecia: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Int J Cancer. 2015 Mar 1;136(5):E442-54. doi: 10.1002/ijc.29115. Epub 2014 Aug 11.


Chemotherapy-induced alopecia (CIA) is a highly distressing event for cancer patients, and hence, we here aimed to assess the efficacy of various interventions in the prevention of CIA. We searched PubMed, EMBASE and the Cochrane Library, from June 20, 2013 through August 31, 2013. Two of the authors independently reviewed and selected clinical trials that reported the efficacy of any intervention for prevention of CIA compared with that of controls. Two authors extracted data independently on dichotomized outcome in terms of CIA occurrence. Relative risks (RRs) and 95% confidential intervals (CIs) were calculated for efficacy of CIA prevention by using random-effect or fixed-effect models. Out of 691 articles retrieved, a total of eight randomized controlled trials and nine controlled clinical trials involving 1,098 participants (616 interventions and 482 controls), were included in the final analyses. Scalp cooling, scalp compression, a combination of cooling and compression, topical minoxidil and Panicum miliaceum were used as interventions. The participants were mainly breast cancer patients receiving doxorubicin- or epirubicin-containing chemotherapy. Scalp cooling, which is the most popular preventive method, significantly reduced the risk of CIA (RR = 0.38, 95% CI = 0.32-0.45), whereas topical 2% minoxidil and other interventions did not significantly reduce the risk of CIA. No serious adverse effects associated with scalp cooling were reported. Our results suggest that scalp cooling can prevent CIA in patients receiving chemotherapy. However, the long-term safety of scalp cooling should be confirmed in further studies.

Keywords: alopecia; controlled clinical trials; hair; induction chemotherapy; meta-analysis; minoxidil; neoplasms; randomized controlled trials; scalp.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Alopecia / chemically induced
  • Alopecia / prevention & control*
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / adverse effects*
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypothermia, Induced*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Treatment Outcome