Researchers in the US are examining the safety and effectiveness of wearing cold caps during chemotherapy to prevent hair loss, the AP reports. The caps, which are attached to a cooling machine and kept at near freezing temperatures, prevent blood flow to the scalp, thus keeping cancer- and hair follicle-killing chemicals at bay.
The method already enjoys widespread use in Canada and Europe, but the FDA has yet to approve their use in the US over concerns that the caps would prevent the chemo from reaching any cancer cells that may be lurking in the scalp. However, Dr. Hope Rugo at the University of California, San Francisco says that the likelihood of such stray cells is rare.
Rugo, one of the researchers involved in the upcoming experiment, also suggested that the negative feelings many feel towards losing their hair or being publically pegged as a cancer patient can deter some people from seeking treatment.
In the meantime, some patients who wish to keep their hair have resorted to renting the equipment from British companies despite the FDA restrictions. The machines can go for nearly $500 a month.
The study could help reveal which kinds of patients could benefit from caps and how cold the caps should be, questions that have gone unanswered due to the purely observational nature of research into the caps before now.