Chemotherapy/Radiation Therapy - Causes of Male Hair Loss

We have touched upon this briefly in the illness, disease and infection section of this guide. Chemotherapy along with radiation therapy is two standard treatments for cancer which destroy cancer cells but have unpleasant side effects such as nausea, vomiting and hair loss.

Cancer itself does not cause hair loss but the treatment for it does.


This is a form of treatment which uses intensely powerful drugs to kill cancer cells. These drugs are administered intravenously (IV) and flow through the body, destroying cancer cells as they go.

But there is also the risk of these drugs killing off healthy cells as well. And these healthy cells include the hair follicles.

If these are damaged or destroyed then that disrupts the hair growth cycle which results in a thinning of the hair followed by it falling out. And no new growth takes place because of these damaged cells.

The cancer patient may notice their hair falling out a couple of weeks after starting this treatment. They may lose all of their hair or in spurts which leaves a patchy appearance.

Radiation Therapy

High-energy beams are emitted, from a machine, directly at your cancer in order to destroy those cells. If you are undergoing treatment or about to for a brain tumour then you will find that these rays will affect your hair follicles as well.

Note: if you undergo radiation on another part of your body, for example your chest then your chest hair will be affected.

Symptoms of hair loss and the extent of the damage will differ between individuals. Some people will experience a complete loss of hair whereas others will lose their hair in clumps.

This tends to happen a week or two after starting treatment.

Is there any way of preventing this damage?

It is almost impossible to prevent this but you can reduce the limit the amount of damage caused. This means making a few changes to your lifestyle such as eating a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, limiting alcohol consumption and taking a Vitamin E supplement.

Other ways include using hair products which are made from natural ingredients and avoid wearing headbands or anything which pulls your hair tight against your head.

A scalp massage may also help as it increases blood flow to the area but check with your GP first about this and vitamin supplementation.

Post-chemo/radiation treatment

If you have chemotherapy then you may find that your hair starts to grow back before the end of your treatment cycle. But, this may not start for 6 to 9 months following radiation therapy.

What you may find is that your new hair is different from before. It could be a different colour, shade or texture. It might be less thick than before or a totally different style altogether.

The best way of dealing with this is to accept that you have a head of hair which is different but still as good as before.

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