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Chronic radiation-induced dermatitis: challenges and solutions

Authors Spałek M

Received 16 September 2016

Accepted for publication 16 November 2016

Published 9 December 2016 Volume 2016:9 Pages 473—482


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Dr Jeffrey Weinberg

Mateusz Spałek

Department of Radiotherapy I, The Maria Sklodowska-Curie Memorial Cancer Center and Institute of Oncology, Warsaw, Poland

Abstract: Chronic radiation dermatitis is a late side effect of skin irradiation, which may deteriorate patients’ quality of life. There is a lack of precise data about its incidence; however, several risk factors may predispose to the development of this condition. It includes radiotherapy dose, fractionation, technique, concurrent systemic therapy, comorbidities, and personal and genetic factors. Chronic radiation dermatitis is mostly caused by the imbalance of proinflammatory and profibrotic cytokines. Clinical manifestation includes changes in skin appearance, wounds, ulcerations, necrosis, fibrosis, and secondary cancers. The most severe complication of irradiation is extensive radiation-induced fibrosis (RIF). RIF can manifest in many ways, such as skin induration and retraction, lymphedema or restriction of joint motion. Diagnosis of chronic radiation dermatitis is usually made by clinical examination. In case of unclear clinical manifestation, a biopsy and histopathological examination are recommended to exclude secondary malignancy. The most effective prophylaxis of chronic radiation dermatitis is the use of proper radiation therapy techniques to avoid unnecessary irradiation of healthy skin. Treatment of chronic radiation dermatitis is demanding. The majority of the interventions are based only on clinical practice. Telangiectasia may be treated with pulse dye laser therapy. Chronic postirradiation wounds need special dressings. In case of necrosis or severe ulceration, surgical intervention may be considered. Management of RIF should be complex. Available methods are rehabilitative care, pharmacotherapy, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, and laser therapy. Future challenges include the assessment of late skin toxicity in modern irradiation techniques. Special attention should be paid on genomics and radiomics that allow scientists and clinicians to select patients who are at risk of the development of chronic radiation dermatitis. Novel treatment methods and clinical trials are strongly needed to provide more efficacious therapies.

Keywords: chronic radiation dermatitis, radiation-induced fibrosis, late skin toxicity, ­radiotherapy side effects

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