Radiation recall dermatitis: A review of the literature

R. S. Bhangoo, T. W. Cheng, M. M. Petersen, C. S. Thorpe, T. A. DeWees, J. D. Anderson, C. E. Vargas, S. H. Patel, M. Y. Halyard, S. E. Schild, W. W. Wong

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Purpose/Objectives: Radiation recall dermatitis (RRD) is a skin reaction limited to an area of prior radiation triggered by the subsequent introduction of systemic therapy. To characterize RRD, we conducted a literature search, summarized RRD features, and compared the most common drug classes implicated in this phenomenon. Materials/Methods: PubMed, Embase, Scopus, Web of Science, and Cochrane DBSR databases were queried through July 1, 2019 using key words: radiation recall, RRD, and radiodermatitis (limited to humans and English language). Studies included case reports in which patients treated with radiotherapy were initiated on a new line of systemic therapy and subsequently developed a skin reaction in the irradiated area. RRD cases were organized by whether RRD occurred after a single drug or multiple drug administration. Results: One-hundred fifteen studies representing 129 RRD cases (96 single-drug RRD, 33 multi-drug) were included. Sixty-three drugs were associated with RRD. Docetaxel (22) and gemcitabine (18) were the two drugs most commonly associated with RRD. Breast cancer (69 cases) was the most commonly associated tumor type. For single-drug RRD, the median radiotherapy dose was 45.0 Gy (range, 30.0–63.2 Gy). The median time from radiotherapy to drug exposure, time from drug exposure to RRD and time to significant improvement was 8 weeks (range, 2–132 weeks), 5 days (range, 2–56 days), and 14 days (range, 7–49 days), respectively. Variables significantly associated with grade ≥2 toxicity were docetaxel (P = 0.04) and non-antifolate antimetabolite (P = 0.05). The only variable significantly associated with grade ≥3 toxicity was capecitabine (P = 0.04). Conclusions: RRD is a complex toxicity that can occur after a wide range of radiotherapy doses and many different systemic agents. Most commonly, it presents in patients diagnosed with breast cancer and after administration of a taxane or antimetabolite medication. RRD treatment generally consists of corticosteroids with consideration of antibiotics if superinfection is suspected. Drug re-challenge may be considered after RRD if the initial reaction was of mild intensity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)152-159
Number of pages8
JournalSeminars in oncology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2022


  • Radiation dermatitis
  • Radiation recall
  • Radiation recall dermatitis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology
  • Oncology


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