Anticancer treatments and photosensitivity

J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2022 Jun;36 Suppl 6(Suppl 6):51-58. doi: 10.1111/jdv.18200.


Drug-induced photosensitivity is associated with a wide range of anticancer treatments, including conventional chemotherapeutic agents, targeted anticancer therapies, and immune checkpoint inhibitors. These dermatologic adverse events can have a major impact on the well-being and quality of life of cancer patients, leading to dose modifications and interruption or discontinuation of anticancer treatments in severe cases. However, the heterogeneous nature of the photosensitive reactions induced by these agents, as well as the common concomitant use of other potentially photosensitizing drugs (antibiotics, voriconazole, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, etc.), can make the diagnosis and, therefore the prevention, of these adverse events particularly challenging. The aim of this review is to describe the most characteristic forms of photosensitivity observed in patients being treated with anticancer treatments, including phototoxicity and photoallergy, and other potentially photo-induced manifestations such as UV recall, exaggerated sunburn reactions associated with treatment-related vitiligo, drug-induced cutaneous lupus erythematosus, and UV-induced hyperpigmentation. We also discuss the photosensitive reactions recently reported with new-generation targeted anticancer therapies and immune checkpoint inhibitors and highlight the importance of continued surveillance to identify photosensitizing agents, and of educating patients on the need for preventive UVA/UVB photoprotective measures.

Keywords: chemotherapy; hyperpigmentation; immune checkpoint inhibitors; lupus; photosensitivity; phototoxicity; targeted anticancer therapies; vitiligo.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Dermatitis, Photoallergic* / diagnosis
  • Dermatitis, Phototoxic* / diagnosis
  • Dermatitis, Phototoxic* / etiology
  • Humans
  • Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors
  • Photosensitivity Disorders* / diagnosis
  • Quality of Life


  • Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors