Background: The advice on hair washing during brain irradiation is aimed at minimizing radiation induced skin toxicity. We performed a prospective randomized trial to assess the effect of advice on scalp care on the local skin reaction in patients undergoing cranial radiotherapy.Methods: One hundred and nine patients undergoing cranial radiotherapy were randomized into two groups. Patients in group 1 were advised not to wash hair during treatment and patients in group 2 to maintain normal pattern of hair washing. They were assessed weekly over a period of 10 weeks from the start of treatment. Symptoms of pain and itching were recorded using a modified RTOG/EORTC acute skin reaction scoring system and skin reaction was assessed clinically using erythema/desquamation score. The frequency of hair washing and the distress of changing the practice of normal hygiene were recorded on a diary card. Skin reaction scores were compared as a summary measure using area under the curve per week (AUC/week) and median scores, and the differences between groups were assessed by means of the t-test.Results: One hundred and nine patients commencing cranial radiotherapy according to standard protocol were randomized into the trial (group 1, 55 patients; group 2, 54 patients). Patients asked to restrict hair washing, washed at a lower average frequency. There were no significant differences between scores of skin reaction in the two groups for each of the variables measured.Conclusions: The practice of normal hair washing is not associated with increased severity of adverse skin reaction. As a request to change the pattern of normal hygiene may cause distress, the current advice should be to maintain normal hair washing during cranial radiotherapy. Copyright (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ireland Ltd.
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