Hair Loss Drug Spironolactone May Be Safe for Use in Breast Cancer Survivors

The retrospective study from a team at the George Washington University found that spironolactone may be safe to treat female pattern hair loss in breast cancer survivors
September 9, 2020

WASHINGTON (Sept. 9, 2020) - Spironolactone is not associated with increased risk of female breast cancer recurrence, according to research from the George Washington University (GW) Department of Dermatology. The study, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, found that the drug may be safe for use in treating breast cancer survivors with female pattern hair loss.

Androgens contribute significantly to the pathogenesis of female patterned hair loss. The current treatment of topically applied minoxidil (also known as Rogaine), thought to increase scalp blood flow and maintain hair growth, is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. However, antiandrogen drugs, like spironolactone, have also been used to treat female patterned hair loss, but used off-label. Research confirming the safety of this drug for breast cancer survivors is critical for patients considering this treatment option.

“Spironolactone is used for androgenic alopecia because of its ability to halt the progression of hair loss and its long-term safety profile," said Adam Friedman, MD, interim chair and professor in the Department of Dermatology at the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences, director of the Supportive Oncodermatology Clinic at GW Cancer Center, and the senior author on the study. “However, little is known about its safety in breast cancer survivors, which is of concern considering the drug’s estrogenic effects could pose a theoretical risk of breast cancer recurrence."

The multidisciplinary research team, led by first author Chapman Wei, a fourth-year MD student and research fellow in the GW Department of Dermatology, conducted a retrospective analysis of data from the Humana Insurance Database. They identified patients with a history of breast cancer and stratified groups based on spironolactone usage. They then analyzed patient characteristics and cancer recurrence rates between the cohorts.

The breast cancer recurrence rate for the group prescribed spironolactone was not statistically different from the cohort of patients who did not take spironolactone after adjusting for patient characteristics, both of which were well within the range of expected recurrence rates.

“According to our analysis, spironolactone is not independently responsible for increased risk of breast cancer recurrence," Friedman said. “The drug could be used as an additional treatment option for alopecia in female breast cancer patients who are disease-free."

The authors recommend additional prospective studies and clinical trials to further assess the efficacy and safety of spironolactone in patients who have cancer remission to confirm its safety.

The study, titled “Spironolactone Use Does Not Increase the Risk of Female Breast Cancer Recurrence," is published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology and can be found at www.jaad.org/article/S0190-9622(20)30950-6/fulltext.

Media: For more information or to set up an interview, please contact Ashley Rizzardo at amrizz713@gwu.edu or 202-994-8679.

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About the GW Cancer Center
The George Washington University (GW) Cancer Center is a collaboration of the George Washington University, the GW Hospital and the GW Medical Faculty Associates to expand GW’s efforts in the fight against cancer. The GW Cancer Center also incorporates all existing cancer-related activities at GW, with a vision to create a cancer-free world through groundbreaking research, innovative education and equitable care for all. Learn more about the GW Cancer Center at gwcancercenter.org.

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