The enigma of the stigma of hair loss: Why is cancer-treatment related alopecia so traumatic for women?

Kathryn Coe, Lisa Staten, Cecilia Rosales, Marie Swanson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Scopus citations


In both developed and developing countries, breast cancer is now one of the most commonly diagnosed reproductive cancers and a primary cause of death among women. Women treated for breast cancer are likely to receive either radiation or chemotherapy, both of which have secondary effects. Chemotherapeutic treatment produces a range of relatively immediate effects, including pain, nausea, fatigue, mouth sores, depression, problems sleeping, and temporary hair loss. Of these, women across cultures often report that hair loss is one of the more troublesome; it makes them feel unattractive and look like they are sick or dying. Further, they often feel stigmatized by others. In this paper we look at the cross-cultural patterns of responses to hair loss and examine its possible evolutionary roots. We argue that there is a deep biological basis for these emotions and that; consequently, it is important to develop specific and culturally-tailored interventions to provide support for these women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalOpen Cancer Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013



  • Alopecia
  • Cancer
  • Chemotherapeutic effects

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology

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