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Cutaneous side effects of conventional chemotherapy agents

Aimee S Payne, MD, PhD
Diane MF Savarese, MD
Section Editor
Reed E Drews, MD
Deputy Editor
Rosamaria Corona, MD, DSc


Systemic and local treatments for cancer can cause a number of changes in the skin, mucous membranes, hair, and nails [1-5]. When dermatologic lesions arise in patients being treated for cancer, they may represent a side effect of therapy, but other etiologies need to be considered. These include a cutaneous reaction to other drugs, exacerbation of a previously existing condition, infection, metastatic tumor involvement, a paraneoplastic phenomenon, graft-versus-host disease, or a nutritional disorder.

Accurate diagnosis and management of chemotherapy-related side effects require the clinician to be knowledgeable of the most commonly reported cutaneous reaction patterns for the drugs the patient is receiving. The clinician must also be familiar with the cutaneous manifestations of certain cancers, as well as the dermatologic effects of other forms of cancer treatments. In some cases, diagnostic uncertainty can only be clarified with a rechallenge, and the clinician must determine whether rechallenge is safe and medically justifiable.

The cutaneous adverse effects of conventional cytotoxic cancer therapy agents are presented here. Other mucocutaneous complications of cancer treatment are discussed separately.

(See "Cutaneous side effects of molecularly targeted therapy and other biologic agents used for cancer therapy".)

(See "Hand-foot skin reaction induced by multitargeted tyrosine kinase inhibitors".)

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Literature review current through: Oct 2017. | This topic last updated: Sep 15, 2017.
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