Pigment International

: 2021  |  Volume : 8  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 188--189

Chemotherapy-induced mucosal pigmentation

Dinesh Raj, Muthu Sendhil Kumaran 
 Department of Dermatology, Venereology, and Leprology, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, India

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Muthu Sendhil Kumaran
Department of Dermatology, Venereology, and Leprology, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Sector 12, Chandigarh 160012

How to cite this article:
Raj D, Kumaran MS. Chemotherapy-induced mucosal pigmentation.Pigment Int 2021;8:188-189

How to cite this URL:
Raj D, Kumaran MS. Chemotherapy-induced mucosal pigmentation. Pigment Int [serial online] 2021 [cited 2022 May 26 ];8:188-189
Available from: https://www.pigmentinternational.com/text.asp?2021/8/3/188/330887

Full Text

Drug-induced hyperpigmentation accounts for 20% of overall acquired pigmentation. A wide variety of drugs cause acquired pigmentation and is frequently caused by chemotherapeutic agents.[1] In this report, we present a case of atypical acquired pigmentation caused by chemotherapeutic agents.

Dermatology consultation was sought for a 45-year-old female presenting with complaints of hyperpigmentation of tongue and nails. The patient was a known case of breast carcinoma started on chemotherapy containing cyclophosphamide and doxorubicin in December 2019. After the second cycle of chemotherapy, the patient developed hyperpigmentation over her tongue initially followed by nails. Clinical examination revealed bluish-black macules on the dorsum of tongue with islands of sparing [Figure 1]. Nails [Figure 2] showed blackish discoloration extending from proximal nail fold to middle of the nail. The patient was not on any other photosensitive drugs. Patient’s cortisol and serum vitamin B12 levels were normal. A diagnosis of drug-induced hyperpigmentation was made by correlating the onset of pigmentation with temporal initiation of the chemotherapy agents.{Figure 1}{Figure 2}

Cyclophosphamide and doxorubicin are commonly used drugs for breast carcinoma. Their common side effects include neutropenic sepsis or hemorrhage, nausea and vomiting, mucositis, alopecia, cardiotoxicity, amenorrhea, hematuria, palmar and plantar inflammation, and carcinogenesis.[2] Drug-induced hyperpigmentation involving the skin, palms, soles, proximal nails, tongue, and buccal mucosa is rarely reported with doxorubicin and cyclophosphamide.[3] Cyclophosphamide more commonly causes drug-induced hyperpigmentation compared to doxorubicin because of its wide range of indications. The pathogenesis of chemotherapy-induced hyperpigmentation is not completely elucidated but proposed mechanisms include hypersecretion of melanocyte-stimulating hormone, formation of stable drug–melanin complexes, changes in local growth factors, postinflammatory hyperpigmentation, or a direct toxic effect on melanocytes which leads to increased melanin production.[1],[4] The pigmentary changes due to these drugs may occur after a week to several months following the start of treatment. Hyperpigmentation can affect skin (diffuse or circumscribed), hair, nails (showing longitudinal, transverse, or diffuse melanonychia), or mucous membranes. Many clinical patterns of hyperpigmentation are associated with chemotherapeutic agents such as diffuse (busulfan, cyclophosphamide, methotrexate, hydroxyurea), palmoplantar (5-fluorouracil, capecitabine, tegafur, ifosfamide, cyclophosphamide), localised to areas of trauma (cyclophospamide, 5-fluorouracil, topical carmustine, cisplatin, bleomycin), serpentine supravenous (5-fluorouracil, cisplatin, docetaxel), flagellated (bleomycin, 5-fluorouracil), and reticulated (5-fluorouracil, paclitaxel).[5] Resolution of pigmentation induced by chemotherapy occurs after discontinuation of the offending drug (2 weeks to 6 months).[3] The common differentials include melanoacanthoma or mucosal lichen planus pigmentosus; however, a proper history suggesting temporal association with drug intake and histopathology may facilitate the correct diagnosis. Our report highlights an unusual presentation of solitary mucosal pigmentation induced by chemotherapeutic agents.

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