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Why do some drugs make your hair fall out?

Not all chemotherapy drugs make your hair fall out. But many do. Chemotherapy drugs work by killing cancer cells. But the drugs only work on growing cells. Cells grow by dividing into 2 identical daughter cells. Most tumour cells divide much more often than most normal body cells. At any one time, there will be far more cancer cells dividing than normal cells. So the cancer cells are more likely to be at risk from chemotherapy than normal cells.

But some normal body tissues that grow rapidly will also have lots of dividing cells. It is normal for hair cells to grow very quickly. So cells in the hair follicles at the base of each hair will be affected by the chemotherapy drugs too. And this is what makes your hair fall out.

After your chemotherapy finishes, new hair cells are made by the body as replacements. So your hair will usually grow back within about 6 months of the end of your chemo.

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Updated: 19 April 2013