Scalp cooling caps prevent hair loss for cancer patients, study shows

This was the first randomized scalp cooling study, and it shows that the Paxman Hair Loss Prevention System is an effective therapy for reducing chemotherapy-induced alopecia.

"Variation in hair retention seen across the sites is likely a result of different types of chemotherapy administered, as taxanes have higher hair retention rates, and the learning curve for fitting and operating the scalp cooling cap by nurses and physicians", explained Nangia.

Ms Bell said while some people would find scalp cooling too uncomfortable or not worth the effort (it added time to her visits to hospital), she was grateful for keeping almost all of her hair and she experienced no side effects.

"Whether you're a mom with young children, a teacher in a classroom or a corporate lawyer, the visible part of the chemo experience has really been that hair loss", he told Reuters Health.

Barriers to their use in the USA included a lack of approval from the Food and Drug Administration and questions about their safety and effectiveness.

Dr. Julie Nangia, the lead author of the research, is also an assistant professor and breast cancer expert with the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

Rugo's team tested a device known as DigniCap on 122 women being treated for stage one or two breast cancer at five medical centers. Before their chemotherapy treatment, these patients wear the cap for 30 minutes, during the treatment and 90-120 minutes after it ended. The DigniCap is set to cool at 3 degrees Celsius with a temperature variance of plus or minus 2 degrees.

Pictures were taken of participants' scalps and hair over the course of their treatments. They were asked to determine by themselves if they saw any improvements in hair loss reduction.

Another study, by Hope S. Rugo, M.D., from the University of California - San Francisco, found about two-thirds of the patients who underwent hair cooling lost 50% of their hair or less. Albeit a further research still needs to be done, the cooling caps will improve an individual's life quality during cancer treatments. There were 16 women who didn't use the cap who lost all of their hair.

Hair loss can be an unpleasant side effect for women undergoing chemotherapy.

In the United States, scalp cooling has been limited because of factors including insufficient scientific data and concern about the theoretic risk of scalp metastases. Hair loss was assessed by a healthcare worker. Another study which was later developed revealed that the cooling devices can reduce hair loss.

But cooling caps haven't been extensively studied in the USA, and womens' experiences with the caps have been hit or miss.

Cooling caps are the latest innovations which could help people suffering from hair loss induced by chemo to keep their hair.

"I would say that most women would have some thinning of up to 30 percent of their hair", said Nangia. Nangia stated that generally, every woman who finds out she will lose her hair would start crying. Furthermore, the cooling cap isn't covered by health insurance and a patient may need to pay at least $1,500 for the device.