Why does cancer make your hair fall out?

Cancer is a disease that affects many people around the world, and it’s not just the physical effects of cancer that can be challenging. One of the most common side-effects of cancer treatment is hair loss, which can be upsetting and distressing for many patients. But why does cancer make your hair fall out? In this article, we’ll explore the science behind this phenomenon and get to grips with what causes it.

The Science of Hair Growth

Before we dive into why cancer treatments cause hair loss, let’s take a quick look at how our hair actually grows in the first place. Our hair follicles are responsible for producing new hairs on a continuous basis throughout our lives. Each follicle goes through three stages:

  1. Anagen – This is the growth phase where new cells at the base of each follicle rapidly divide to produce long strands of hair.
  2. Catagen – This is a transitional phase where growth slows down as blood supply to follicles decreases.
  3. Telogen – In this final phase, no new growth occurs as old hairs rest before eventually falling out.

During these phases, specialized cells called keratinocytes work together with specific enzymes like 5-alpha reductase (fancy science talk alert!)to synthesize proteins and other materials essential to healthy hair development.

How Do Chemotherapy Drugs Work?

Chemotherapy drugs are designed to kill rapidly dividing cells in order to help battle tumors or prevent recurrence after surgery (if needed). Because big C-cells don’t spare any cell-type (there’s nothing more indiscriminate than toxic chemicals) , they hit all fast-growing parts – including your body’s ANAGEN-phasehealthy-hair-making-growers-ioas! Which freaking sucks!

While chemotherapy agents vary depending on individual cases i.e: two different “cocktails” for treating colon vs breast cancers; they all function by binding to DNA and interrupting cell replication. The unfortunate thing is, chemotherapy can’t distinguish between cancer cells and healthy cells, it just forces all rapid-dividers into submission.

Here’s what happens: your body starts diverting its efforts from other seemingly-glamor-activities like growing hair to focus on survival during this tough time (not ideal we know). At the same time, because chemotherapy drugs don’t always completely differentiate a healthy cancerous individual, follicles in ANAGEN phase are attacked along with any residual cancerous tissue.

As a result, telogen-phase hair eventually sheds itself or falls out in clumps regardless of whether you’re taking chemo at that moment!(RIP Brazilian blowout). Excitingly &counterintuitively, once treatment concludes though – you may regrow that lovely mane!

Other Factors Involved

While the primary reason for hair loss related to cancer treatments is because of chemotherapy drugs attacking anagen-stage hair factors; there are also secondary contributing factors:

  • Radiation – For those going through radiation therapy (which incidentally doesn’t stop dividing-cells-at-all-cost-surgeons™) , they usually experience localized hair loss around their region-of-treatment.
  • Surgery – In contrast to chemo-therapy /radiation scenarios that involve “widespread” attacks across a patient’s body; Some surgical procedures only remove small areas of tissue which usually shouldn’t affect overall scalp-follicular health i.e : You won’t lose significant amounts of surrounding-non-incision-al hairs
  • Psychological stress – Just being diagnosed with Cancer often leads people down mood-killing rabbit-holes which can trigger underlying conditions worsened HAIR LOSS including disorders such as alopecia or autoimmune-related dermatitis

Coping With Hair Loss During Cancer Treatment (The Not So Funny Part)

Losing one’s vibrant & gorgeous mane isn’t anyone’s favorite activity in the world. And, for many people undergoing cancer treatments, it can be especially traumatic.

Here are a few ways that patients can cope with losing their hair:

  • Consider shaving your head – To have more control over what seems like an uncontrollable situation, people often feel empowered by choosing to shave their heads
  • Try on some new hairstyles or hats – Frequently people draw attention away from thinning/ bald patches inspiring on instead a killer hat collection!
  • Invest in wig options – Wigs and extensions are not just for stylistic purposes. For most of our history actually they served as necessary-items-guaranteeing-warmth-utilized-by-all-ranks-of-society !( Let’s bring back periwigs together)


Though scientific advancement has led to great strides in helping fight various forms of cancer; some side effects such as hair loss still carry much stigma &discomfort when experienced by individuals going through treatment procedures.

With this article we hope you understand the “why” behind one of the well known phenomena associated with chemotherapy today? We also hoped that during any future visits you might confidently use alpha reductase inhibitors followed up by scalp lifting surgical techniques (like its brain surgery being done!),as fancy terminologies because now all about Hair Growth Cycles!!! Finally remember though still dealing with serious medical issues , don’t forget occasion chuckle never hurt nobody((while shaking a finger))

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