Targeted therapy and immunotherapy have increased skin concerns of cancer patients over the past decade. The molecules and receptors that are targeted by these medicines to fight cancer are also present in the skin hence causing many side effects. Among these are epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), vascular endothelial growth factor receptor (VEGFR), human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (Her2) and many others. Studies have shown that skin side effects of these targeted therapies correlate well to their efficacy against cancer. So, don’t stop your medication because of skin concerns. Here are some tricks and tips that may help you manage these skin side effects.

Dry Skin

Limit showers to 5-10 minutes and use mild cleansers with low pH. Regularly apply moisturizing lotions every day and use mild topical steroid for persistent itchy rash as prescribed by your doctor.

Acne lesions

Avoid over the counter acne products with salicylic acid and tretinoin because this can make your skin dry. Consult a dermatologist for antibiotic and topical steroid medications because this can control these acneiform lesions better.

Nail problems

Nails are also one of the skin concerns of cancer patients. Avoid nail trauma and aggressive manicures and pedicures. Apply antibacterial ointment like povidone iodine on painful nailfolds daily until swelling subsides. If bleeding or ingrown nail occurs, consult a dermatologist for help

Mouth sores

Oral hygiene is important to decrease bacteria in the mouth that aggravates sores. Brush your teeth using soft toothbrush and SLS free toothpaste every after a meal. Gargle water with 1 tsp baking soda and salt frequently. If you have severe mouth sores, your oncologist can also prescribe you specialized mouth wash that can help relieve the pain.

Know more about how to care for your skin in “Staying Beautiful and Hopeful: A Cancer Patient’s Skin Guide”.


Cury-Martins J, Eris APM, Abdalla CMZ, Silva GB, Moura VPT, Sanches JA. Management of dermatologic adverse events from cancer therapies: recommendations of an expert panel. An Bras Dermatol. 2020;95(2):221‐237. doi:10.1016/j.abd.2020.01.001