Handling Hair Loss from Cancer Treatments

Hair loss is one of the most well known side effects of cancer treatment.  When chemotherapy drugs travel throughout the body to kill cancer cells, they specifically target rapidly dividing cells, including the hair follicles. This leads to damage of the follicles, making hair fall out. This specific type of hair loss is called anagen effluvium and is normally not permanent.   Depending on the types of drugs that are used, the dose, and an individual’s specific sensitivity, many of these drugs may cause anything from a mild thinning of the hair on the scalp to complete loss of hair all over the body.  Not all treatments cause hair loss, but if hair loss does occur, it usually begins within 2 to 3 weeks after treatment starts.  Additionally, radiation therapy to the head can also cause scalp hair loss and sometimes, depending on the dose of radiation to the head, the hair does not grow back due to scarring.

Griffin Center women hair lossMany patients undergoing chemotherapy cancer treatment have managed to reduce the amount of their hair loss by using something called a cold cap.  This device lowers the temperature of the scalp, reducing the blood flow to the area.  Less blood flow means that there is a reduced amount of chemotherapy drug that reaches the hair follicles on the head during treatment.  In two small European studies, cold caps proved effective in reducing the amount of hair lost in about 50% of the women that used them, and several U.S. studies are currently underway to examine the safety and effectiveness of this treatment.  Cold caps, however, only block certain drugs and are not suitable for use in all types of cancer.  Recent hair loss research has determined that vasoconstrictors, drugs that restrict blood flow to the skin, can achieve an effect similar to a cold cap when applied topically to the scalp.  These drugs, which have long been used in conjunction with Novocain and similar numbing agents to keep the injected anesthetic in a particular spot, could temporarily cut off the cells in the scalp from the body’s blood supply and prevent the hair follicles from being damaged by chemotherapy.  Unfortunately, since both of these treatments would work by isolating the scalp from the cancer treatment, they are not useful in cases where there is a risk that cancer cells could be present in the scalp blood vessels themselves.

Unless you have had very high doses of particular chemotherapy drugs, hair lost as a result of treatment will generally grow back once the course of treatment is over.  However, this may take several months and the hair that grows back may be softer and thinner or even a different color or curl than it was previously.  At The Griffin Center of Hair Restoration and Research, we have had a great deal of success stimulating regrowth by applying direct visible red light to the scalp.  Red light therapy can increase the energy production around the individual hair follicles, waking the cells from dormancy into an active growth phase.   We have been using these red light wavelengths for years to improve the survival rate of transplanted grafts after hair restoration surgery, as they have been shown to inhibit inflammation and speed recovery while decreasing redness and swelling.  For optimal results, most patients require 20-30 minutes of laser light exposure two to three times per week, either administered through one of our two red light machines within The Griffin Center or with a portable red light cap like the LaserCap™ or igrow helmet. Both of these light sources emit 655 nm red visible light to the scalp either through a combination of LED lights and or laser diode lights. In addition, the application of certain topical medications along with prescribed vitamins and minerals may boost hair growth in patients with have experienced anagen effluvium.

If you have questions about any of the hair restoration treatments we offer, please contact The Griffin Center to schedule a consultation.  Be sure to also visit our website and follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Google+ .

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Monday, October 13th, 2014 Blog, Educational, Hair Loss

The Rising Popularity of Beard Transplants

From the large, unkempt beards modeled on the TV show “Duck Dynasty” to the trim, neatly-styled beards sported by the bohemian artists strolling through Brooklyn, facial hair is here to stay!  Popular celebrities have turned what was once a minor affectation into a powerful fashion statement.  Unfortunately, many forms of alopecia (hair loss) can affect the facial hair just as readily as they do the hair on the scalp, and some men have difficulty growing and maintaining a full beard.  At The Griffin Center of Hair Restoration and Research, we study all forms of hair loss and any potential hair restoration technology and techniques, so we are uniquely qualified to discuss both the loss and restoration of facial hair.

the rising popularity of beard transplantsAccording to the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery, just over 7 percent of hair restoration procedures performed in 2012 targeted non-scalp areas of the body – including, but not limited to, the eyebrows, face/moustache/beard, and sideburn areas.  However, in the past year, the popularity of beard and moustache transplants has skyrocketed, with several specialists reporting that the popularity of the procedure has increased five or even six-fold.  Most frequently, the men seeking the procedure have a beard already, but have uneven coverage and hairless patches that they are interested in filling in.

The procedure for a beard transplant is very similar to what a patient might undergo for regular genetic pattern baldness.  The hair follicles are typically taken from the back of the patient’s scalp, as this hair most closely resembles the hair grown around the chin.  It is then transplanted through micro-incisions on a bare patch of face.  At The Griffin Center, our extensive experience performing follicular unit grafting helps us orient each individual follicle with the natural angle of the existing hair, a particularly meticulous part of the procedure which is necessary in order to prevent the transplanted hair from sticking out in random directions.  Once it’s fully healed, the new beard can be shaved regularly and will grow back just as it does during natural hair growth.

If you have questions about hair loss causes and treatments offered by The Griffin Center, please contact our office to schedule a consultation.  Be sure to also visit our website and follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Google+ .

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Monday, October 6th, 2014 Blog, Hair Restoration, In the news

Explaining the Science of Pattern Baldness

Hair loss is a concern that affects a majority of men and women over the course of their lives.  As many as 65% of all men, and 80% of women, experience noticeable hair loss by the time they are 60, and these numbers only go up as people get older.  While there are many different potential causes of hair loss, more than 95% of cases in both men and women are the result of androgenetic alopecia, a condition commonly known as male and female pattern baldness.  Unfortunately, despite the frequency with which this condition occurs, there are still many questions about the precise way in which it functions.  For over thirty-five years, The Griffin Center of Hair Restoration and Research has been committed to keeping up with the most up-to-date hair restoration research and keeping our patients informed with all the latest information.

What researchers have determined is that pattern hair loss in both men and women is related to hormones called androgens.  Androgens are important for normal male sexual development before birth and during puberty, and help to regulate hair growth and sex drive in both men and women.  Pattern baldness sufferers seem to have inherited a genetic sensitivity to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a by-product of the androgen testosterone.  While the entire genetic process of androgenetic alopecia is not completely understood, and we are not entirely sure what combination of genes causes this genetic susceptibility, we do know that DHT shrinks hair follicles, shortening the lifespan of each individual hair follicle and eventually causing the affected follicles to stop producing cosmetically acceptable hair.  It is also unclear whether the genes responsible for this sensitivity are linked exclusively to the X-chromosome, as was long believed.  So the long persisting myth that you inherit baldness from your mother’s side of the family is largely unfounded.

The hormonal process of testosterone converting to DHT, which then harms hair follicles, happens in both men and women, although it progresses differently in each.  Under normal conditions, women have a much lower level of testosterone than men, but even this lower level can cause DHT-triggered hair loss, particularly in those with a genetic susceptibility.  Moreover, since hormones operate best when they are in balance, the androgens do not need to be raised to trigger a problem.  If the counterpart female hormones are lowered for any reason, such as menopause or birth control use, the resulting imbalance can result in pattern hair loss.

A number of different treatments for pattern hair loss have been developed over the past several years.  The drug finasteride (sold under the brand names Proscar® and Propecia®) has been shown to lower the levels of DHT, which has resulted in decreased hair loss and, in some cases, the re-growth of hair especially in men.  Additionally, Extra-Strength Rogaine® (5% minoxidil), helps to prevent the shrinkage of hair follicles and hold on to existing hair.

If you have questions about hair loss causes and treatments offered by The Griffin Center, please contact Dr. Griffin and Dr. Curtis to schedule a consultation.  We provide a variety of options for financing, including Care Credit®, in order to assist you.  Visit our website and follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Google+  for more exciting announcements.

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Monday, September 29th, 2014 Blog, Educational, Hair Loss

The Latest Developments in Hair Restoration Treatments

At The Griffin Center of Hair Restoration and Research, we have always been committed to seeking out the newest and most effective treatments for hair loss.  While many of the current non-surgical treatments for hair loss have shown significant promise, we are always on the lookout to provide better options for our patients.  There are several areas of particularly interesting research that are currently being pursued that may manage to successfully control several forms of hair loss.  While many of these treatments are still only in the theoretical or testing phases, they are very encouraging indications of what is to come.

Treating Male Pattern Baldness (Finasteride and Dutasteride)

female hairlossDihydrotestosterone (DHT) is the hormone understood to be the primary cause of male pattern baldness.  High levels of DHT in the bloodstream, over many years, can cause enlarged prostate glands in men.  In men with male pattern baldness, DHT acts on the scalp hair to shrink genetically sensitive hair follicles until those follicles can no longer grow hair.  Finasteride (currently marketed under the brand names Propecia® and Proscar®) works to block the enzymes responsible for converting the body’s natural testosterone into DHT, thus preventing the actions of DHT on hair follicles.  Dutasteride, a drug currently being sold under the brand name Avodart® to treat men with enlarged prostate glands, also significantly reduces the amount of DHT in the body.  However, while the use of Propecia® has been shown to cause a 65-70% decrease in the levels of DHT in the blood, Dutasteride may be able to decrease those levels by 90% or more.  Of the two, Propecia® is the only one that is FDA approved to treat male pattern hair loss.

Treating Alopecia Areata (Tofacitinib and Ruxolitinib)

In alopecia areata, the body’s own immune system attacks the hair follicles and prevents them from functioning correctly.  The hair follicle does remain capable of producing hair, but is hampered from doing so by the ongoing action of the immune system that keeps the follicle in a continual dormant state.  JAK inhibitors are a class of drugs that have been used to alleviate the inflammation caused by rheumatoid arthritis by calming down the body’s natural immune response.  It was initially theorized that, by inhibiting the natural immune response, these drugs might also be able to stop the action of the immune system against the hair follicles, allowing hair to regrow.  Case reports have shown that two different JAK inhibitors, tofacitinib and ruxolitinib, have caused the significant regrowth of hair in patients suffering from alopecia universalis, a severe form of alopecia areata.  Rigorous controlled trials need to be conducted to determine the efficacy, safety, and proper dosing of these medications in regard to hair loss.  They are currently not approved for use in alopecia areata, but we are hopeful that more studies will be done in order to provide a new treatment for patients.

Treating Hair Loss from Chemotherapy (Vasoconstrictors)

In a recent article in The International Journal of Cancer, investigators in Madison, Wisconsin found that vasoconstrictors may be able to help reduce the hair loss that patients suffer during cancer chemotherapy treatments.  Vasoconstrictors can restrict blood flow to the skin and are often used in conjunction with Novocain and similar numbing agents to keep the injected anesthetic in a particular spot.  Applied topically to the scalp, these drugs could temporarily cut off the cells in the scalp from the body’s blood supply and thus prevent them from receiving the chemotherapy drugs delivered.  During chemotherapy treatments, this would theoretically allow the strong medicines used during chemotherapy to move through the body and attack cancer cells, but keep them from reaching the hair follicles in the scalp and causing hair loss.

Treating Hair Loss from Stress

For many years, scientists studied the connection between stress and hair loss.  In 2011, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles stumbled upon a promising cure for baldness while studying mice that had lost their hair due to an increase of the stress hormone corticotropin-releasing factor, or CRF.   When researchers injected a compound that blocked CRF, the mice grew thick, luxurious coats in five days.  The drug not only seemed to awaken dormant follicles and initiate a growth phase, but it also restored pigment, meaning that it could potentially reverse graying as well.  Unfortunately this treatment is only in the very early theoretical testing phases, and just because it was effective for growing fur in mice is no guarantee it will work on humans.  Actual clinical trials are still a long way off, but these results are interesting and hopeful nonetheless.

If you have questions about platelet rich plasma therapy or other of the other treatments we offer, please contact The Griffin Center to schedule a consultation.  Be sure to also visit our website and follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Google+ .

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Thursday, September 18th, 2014 Blog, Hair Loss, Hair Restoration, Women's Hair Loss

Understanding Pattern Hair Loss

As board certified dermatologists at The Griffin Center of Hair Restoration and Research, Dr. Edmond Griffin and I try to take every opportunity to educate patients about hair loss prevention and hair restoration treatments.  To provide an added resource for those interested in learning more about hair loss, we regularly discuss various hair loss topics on our YouTube channel.  Recently, I shared my thoughts on the important differences between male pattern and female pattern hair loss.

In this video, I discuss the most common form of hair loss, androgenetic alopecia, or inherited pattern baldness.  I address how male pattern hair loss and female pattern hair loss differ in presentation, explaining how both forms of hair loss progress and highlighting the distinct differences between the two patterns.  I then discuss the underlying causes that lead to pattern baldness, mentioning both the genetic and hormonal components and how they seem to point to intrinsic differences between the male and female forms of the condition.

Watch this video to learn more about this common form of hair loss and the individual hair restoration options that are available.

If you have questions about hair loss causes and treatments offered by The Griffin Center, please visit our website and follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Google+.  If you are interested in discussing hair loss or hair restoration options, please contact our office to schedule a consultation.

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Monday, September 15th, 2014 Blog, Educational

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