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Radiation-induced skin injury in the head and neck region: pathogenesis, clinics, prevention, treatment considerations and proposal for management algorithm

Jakub Pazdrowski1, Justyna Gornowicz-Porowska2, Joanna Kaźmierska3, Violetta Krajka-Kuźniak4, Adriana Polanska5, Michał Masternak6, Mateusz Szewczyk1, Wojciech Golusiński7, Aleksandra Danczak-Pazdrowska5

Abstract

Worldwide increase of head and neck cancers ranks these malignancies among top causes of cancer in human population. Radiation induced skin injury (RISI) is one of the major side effects of radiotherapy (RT). Skin of the neck is exposed to radiation due to necessity of therapeutic or prophylactic (elective) irradiation of neck lymph nodes and target organs, including the larynx and hypopharynx. The location of the neck exposes these regions of the skin to various additional exposomes such as ultraviolet radiation (UVR), pollution and cigarette smoke. There are many controversies or inconsistencies regarding RISI, from molecular aspects and therapy to terminology. There is lack of high-quality and large-sample studies in both forms of RISI: acute (aRISI) and chronic (cRISI). Finally, no gold standards in the management of aRISI and cRISI have been established yet.  In this article, the authors discuss the pathogenesis, clinical picture, prevention and clinical interventions and present a proposed treatment algorithm.

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