Hyperpigmentation From Use of Chemotherapy Drug, Hydroxyurea

We received an inquiry from a cancer survivor in India who is being administered hydroxyurea – her concern is ‘black marks’ on her face.

Hydroxyurea is an anti-cancer (“antineoplastic” or “cytotoxic”) chemotherapy drug.  Hydroxyurea is classified as an “antimetabolite.” This drug is administered for different types of cancers, including chronic myeloid leukemia (CML); head and neck cancer and melanoma.

Since we have not seen the ‘black marks’ we know this drug causes hyperpigmentation which is a darkening of the skin. This can occur as an overall darkening of the skin, or it can be localized. This may be connected to phototoxic reaction where the areas exposed to light may have a golden-brown or slate-grey color change. Most skin reactions occur within two to three weeks of initiation of chemotherapy and resolve 10 to 12 weeks after stopping treatment. Hyperpigmentation most commonly accompanies use of alkylating agents and antitumor antibodies and the skin discoloration can be found where previous radiation treatment has been given (radiation recall) and/or cause changes in the nails, darkening of the tongue, gums, and over finger joints.  People with darker skins will find discoloration on the skin more noticeable.

We advised her to avoid sun exposure and to wear SPF 15 (or higher) sunblock and protective clothing.   As a temporary alternative option, she can use camouflage makeup to cover up the marks if they are really concerning to her.

Written by Morag Currin Owner & Educator Oncology Esthetics® See the original published version here  https://oti-oncologytraining.com/ 

Mórag Currin is a highly sought-after aesthetic educator with more than 27 years of spa industry experience and more than twelve years of training and training management experience. She pioneered the only Oncology Aesthetics® certification for salon/spa professionals and has set the standard in the fourteen different countries such as Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Malta, New Zealand, Philippines, South Korea, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States and her her home country South Africa. She also is the author of Oncology Esthetics: A Practitioner’s Guide – Expanded Edition (Allured Books, 2014) and Health Challenged Skin: The Estheticians’ Desk Reference (Allured Books, 2012). She travels around the globe with her training and expertise, helping to raise the bar in the spa industry and to open the door to all people, regardless of skin type or health condition. Going beyond the world of aesthetics, Mórag continues to reach out to those suffering from a variety of health challenges through Equine Facilitated Wellness (EFW).

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