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Sun Exposure under Drug Therapy


Medical editor Gunn Kristin Sandvik
Nurse

Oslo University Hospital
Norway

General

Correct information about the possibility of sunbathing may affect patients health and quality of life.

Precautions in connection with sunbathing should be followed under medical cancer treatment and for 2-3 weeks after end of treatment.

Drug cancer treatment includes chemotherapy, antibodies and other drugs used in cancer treatment.

Indication

Sun exposure in connection with drug cancer treatment.

Goal

Prevent sun damage of the skin during and after cancer drug treatment.


Definitions

Photosensitivity

Increased sensitivity to ultraviolet light have been associated with certain drugs used in cancer treatment. Photosensitivity reactions can be expressed in various ways. They can be phototoxic, which is by far the most common, or photoallergic (8,14). Druginduced photosensitivity is mainly caused by wavelengths in the UVA range, but UVB rays may also be involved (8).

Phototoxicity

A phototoxic reaction is reminiscent of a reinforced sunburn, with redness, edema, pain and increased sensitivity in sun-exposed areas of the skin. This is caused by a photochemical reaction of a photosensitive drug and irradiation of sunlight on the skin, which leads to skin cell death. In severe cases, blistering can occur (14). Symptoms may appear immediately or as a delayed inflammatory reaction (3). Higher doses of medication will give an increased risk of skin reaction (14). Healing of skin area will often lead to a hyperpigmentation that can last from weeks to months before they might disappear (8). Although the incidence of drug-induced photosensitivity is unknown, phototoxic reactions is possibly more common than is diagnosed or reported.

Photoallergy

An immunological reaction usually occurring 24-72 hours after sun exposure. The reaction degenerates as an itchy, eczema-like eruptions. In acute cases, one can see rash liquids. The prevalence of eczema is usually limited to sun-exposed skin, but can in severe cases spread to larger areas of the body. Unlike a phototoxic reaction, photoallergy is less dependent on the dose of the causative drug (8).

Photoinstability

Some drugs can be degraded when exposed to light. This can happen both before administration and when the drug is circulating in the body. This degradation can cause redness/rash and edema of the skin. This applies especially for dacarbazine (9). It is unknown whether the effect of the drug is affected and it is therefore recommended that one avoids direct sunlight as long as the drug is active in the body.

PPE ( palmoplantar erythrodysesthesia = Acral erythema )

PPE is also called hand-foot syndrom. The condition starts with altered skin sensation that develops into burning pain, swelling and redness of palm of the hands and soles of the feet. The symptoms can also occur in other parts of the body that is subjected to pressure, for example under tight clothing. In severe cases large blisters and ulceration can develop. The pain can be so severe that daily activities is limited.

PPE is often seen with liposomal doxorubicin (Caelyx®) and high dose cytarabine, but may in principle occur with any anthracyclines, taxanes and fluorouracil (5- FU® ) (9,14) .

Acne-like rash

Pimple-like eruptions in skin areas with a lot of sebaceous glands such as the face, scalp, chest and neck. In contrast to common acne, the liquid-filled blisters does not contain any bacteria (9,10,15).

Hyperpigmentation

Hyperpigmentation is a common side effect in patients receiving chemotherapy, especially alkylating drugs and antibiotics with cytostatic effect. The area that has increased pigmentation may be localized or diffusely distributed. It can occur in the skin, mucous membranes, hair and nails. Pigment changes can be normalized upon discontinuation of the drug, but it may also persist.

Fluorouracil is one of the most common drugs which can provide hyperpigmentation. Others are; metotrexate, busulfan, doxorubicin liposomal, Hydroksyurea®, procarbazine, bleomycin, cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin , ifosfamide, tegafur, mitoxantrone, daunorubicin, fluorouracil, cisplatin, carmustine, thiotepa, docetaxel, vinorelbine, vincristine, imatinib and combination regimens (14).

An increased pigmentation in sun-exposed areas with the use of methotrexate, fluorouracil and capecitabine is described (16,17,18). Beyond that there is little evidence in the literature  that hyperpigmentation aggravates by sun exposure.

Radiation Recall Dermatitis (RRD)/Photo Toxic recall reaction

Flares of an inflammatory skin reaction in an area of ​​previous radiation damaged skin resulting from sunburn or external radiation. RRD can occur from months to years after the initial radiation damage.

Drugs that can provide RRD are; bleomycin, capecitabine, cyclophosphamide, dactinomycin, cytarabine, daunorubicin, docetaxel, doxorubicin liposomal, doxorubicin, etoposide, fluorouracil, gemcitabine, Hydroksyurea® , idarubicin, lomustine, melphalan, methotrexate, paclitaxel, tamoxifen and vinblastine (14). EGFR inhibitors (cetuximab , gefitinib and erlotinib) may also cause other skin reactions that may be exacerbated by sun exposure (9,10,19).


Preparation

The patient is given written and verbal information by the medical responsible doctor and nurse at the start of the drug cancer treatment, and it is repeated as necessary.

Implementation

General Precautions

Prevention and protection:
  • Limit sun exposure during the first days after the cure.
  • Observe skin daily to detect any skin reactions early.
  • Avoid getting sunburned.
  • View extra care between 12.00-15.00 (2).
  • Wear protective clothing and headgear (2,3,4,5,6).
  • Wide-brimmed hats protect better than caps (2.4).
  • Please note that the window glass does not protect against UVA rays (7).
  • Use sunscreen; to protect against UVA and UVB rays, a minimum SPF 15 (3,4,6,8) is applied several times daily.
  • Use mild skin care products without perfumes.

In case of an eruption, sun exposure (including solarium) should be avoided until the skin is healed. Adverse skin reactions can be alleviated with moist and cooling compresses. Mild cortisone salves can also be highly effective. For very severe cases, systemic cortisone might be necessary (3,6,7,9).

When a photosensitive reaction occurs, it is important to consider what other medications the patient is receiving which can also trigger such reactions. For example, steroids, some antibiotics, diuretics and NSAIDs.

Medicaments that most commonly cause skin reactions

Medicament Common reactions Remedial action
Dakarbazin (DTIC)


Phototoxic/photoinstability
See general precautions
Redness in skin, tingling of the scalp and general unwellness
Avoid sunlight completely the day of the treatment (9)
Methotrexate
Phototoxic

See general precautions
Acne-like rash
Avoid direct sun exposure, heat and humidity (9,10). Avoid soap, alcohol based skin products (9). Use moisturizing products and oil bath (4,9,10).
Palmoplantar erythrodysesthesia = Acral erythema (PPE)

Preventive: Pyridoxin (vitamine B6) (2,6,9)

Avoid sunlight, heat, pressure against the skin and tight clothing can according to some studies have an effect (11,12,13). Use moisturizer.

Treatment/relief: Cortisone salves, cortisone tablets, cold compress, cold baths

(2, 9)

Fluorouracil (5-FU®)

 

Phototoxic See general precautions
Palmoplantar erythrodysesthesia = Acral erythema (PPE) Preventive: Pyridoxin (vitamin B6) (2,6,9)

Avoid sunlight, heat, pressure against the skin and tight clothing can according to some studies have an effect (11,12,13). Use moisturizer.

Treatment/relief: Cortisone salves, cortisone tablets, cold compress, cold baths   (2, 9)

Radiation recall
Treatment as with phototoxic

Kapecitabin (Xeloda®)

 

Phototoxic See general precautions
Palmoplantar erythrodysesthesia = Acral erythema (PPE)

Preventive: Pyridoxin (vitamin B6) (2, 6, 9). Preventive: Pyridoxin (vitamin B6) (2, 6, 9)

Avoidance of sunlight, heat, pressure against the skin and tight clothing can according to some studies have an effect (11,12,13). Use moisturizer.

Treatment/relief: Cortisone salves, cortisone tablets, cold compress, cold baths (2, 9)

Vinblastin

 

Phototoxic
See general precautions
Radiation recall Treatment as with phototoxic
Doxorubicin liposomal (Caelyx®)
Palmoplantar erythrodysesthesia = Acral erythema (PPE) Preventive: Pyridoxin (vitamin B6) (2, 6, 9)

Avoidance of sunlight, heat, pressure against the skin and tight clothing can according to some studies have an effect (11,12,13). Use moisturizer.

Treatment/relief: Cortisone salves, cortisone tablets, cold compress, cold baths (2, 9)

Tegafur

 

Phototoxic
See general precautions
Palmoplantar erythrodysesthesia = Acral erythema (PPE) Preventive: Pyridoxin (vitamin B6) (2, 6, 9)

Avoidance of sunlight, heat, pressure against the skin and tight clothing can according to some studies have an effect (11,12,13). Use moisturizer.

Treatment/relief: Cortisone salves, cortisone tablets, cold compress, cold baths    (2, 9)

EGFR-hemmere

(Cetuximab, panitumab, erlotinib, gefitinib, lapatinib, vandetanib)

Phototoxic
See general precautions
Acne-like rash
Avoid direct sun exposure, heat and humidity (9,10). Avoid soap, alcohol based skin products (9). Use moisturizing products and oil bath(4, 9, 10).

Beyond the medications listed in the table the literature gives som evidence that these substances may cause phototoxic skin reactions :

  • paclitaxel (Taxol®)
  • docetaxel (Taxotere®)
  • hydroxycarbamide ( Hydroksyurea® )
  • imatinib ( Glivec® ) and Dapson® and that paclitaxel can provide radiation recall .

References


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