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Radiation-induced morphea - a literature review

M Spalek, J Jonska-Gmyrek, J Gałecki
Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology: JEADV 2015, 29 (2): 197-202
Radiation-induced morphea (RIM) is a rare and under-recognized skin complication of radiotherapy. It is commonly wrongly diagnosed as other dermatological conditions or malignancy because of similar clinical characteristics. This literature review analyses 66 cases that have been reported in the literature since 1989. The clinical appearance often includes pain and disfiguration of affected area, which may influence the patient's quality of life. There is no clear connection between the radiotherapy dose, the fractionation scheme, the use of a boost, age, the presence of other dermatological conditions or other connective tissue diseases and the occurrence of RIM. Its pathogenesis is still unclear, but several theories are proposed to explain this phenomenon. The available data suggest that the abnormally high secretion of some cytokines (interleukin 4, interleukin 5, transforming growth factor) induced by radiation causes an extensive fibrosis after an activation of fibroblasts. Histological confirmation is crucial in distinguishing RIM from similar-looking diseases, such as chronic radiation dermatitis, cancer recurrence, radiation, recall dermatitis, new carcinoma or cellulitis. There is no clear treatment regimen for this condition. Clinical outcome after therapy is often unsatisfactory. The commonly used methods and agents include: topical and systemic steroids, calcineurin inhibitors, systemic immunosuppressants including methotrexate, tacrolimus, heparin, hyaluronidase, phototherapy (UVA, UVA1, UVB, PUVA), systemic antibiotics, imiquimod, mycophenolate mofetil, photophoresis. The differential diagnosis is challenging and requires a multidisciplinary approach to avoid misdiagnosis and to plan appropriate treatment.

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