Randomized control trial: evaluating aluminum-based antiperspirant use, axilla skin toxicity, and reported quality of life in women receiving external beam radiotherapy for treatment of Stage 0, I, and II breast cancer

Linda C Watson, Donna Gies, Emmanuel Thompson, Bejoy Thomas
International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, Physics 2012 May 1, 83 (1): e29-34

PURPOSE: Standard skin care instructions regarding the use of antiperspirants during radiotherapy to the breast varies across North America. Women have articulated that when instructed to not use antiperspirant, the potential for body odor is distressing. Historical practices and individual opinions have often guided practice in this field. The present study had 2 purposes. To evaluate whether the use of aluminum-based antiperspirant while receiving external beam radiotherapy for stage 0, I, or II breast cancer will increase axilla skin toxicity and to evaluate whether the use of antiperspirant during external beam radiotherapy improves quality of life.

METHODS: A total of 198 participants were randomized to either the experimental group (antiperspirant) or control group (standard care-wash only). The skin reactions in both groups were measured weekly and 2 weeks after treatment using the National Cancer Institute Common Toxicity Criteria Adverse Events, version 3, toxicity grading criteria. Both groups completed the Functional Assessment for Chronic Illness Therapy's questionnaire for the breast population quality of life assessment tool, with additional questions evaluating the effect of underarm antiperspirant use on quality of life before treatment, immediately after treatment, and 2 weeks after treatment during the study.

RESULTS: The skin reaction data were analyzed using the generalized estimating equation. No statistically significant difference was seen in the skin reaction between the 2 groups over time. The quality of life data also revealed no statistically significant difference between the 2 groups over time.

CONCLUSIONS: Data analysis indicates that using antiperspirant routinely during external beam radiotherapy for Stage 0, I, or II breast cancer does not affect the intensity of the skin reaction or the self-reported quality of life. This evidence supports that in this particular population, there is no purpose to restrict these women from using antiperspirants during their treatment, and the decision to use an antiperspirant or not in this setting should be left to the discretion of the patient.

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