Open Access Research article

Standard or hypofractionated radiotherapy in the postoperative treatment of breast cancer: a retrospective analysis of acute skin toxicity and dose inhomogeneities

Grazia Tortorelli, Luana Di Murro, Rosaria Barbarino, Sara Cicchetti, Daniela di Cristino, Maria Daniela Falco, Dahlia Fedele, Gianluca Ingrosso, Dania Janniello, Pasquale Morelli, Alessandra Murgia, Elisabetta Ponti, Sara Terenzi*, Barbara Tolu and Riccardo Santoni

Author Affiliations

Department of Diagnostic Imaging, Molecular Imaging, Interventional Radiology and Radiotherapy, Tor Vergata University General Hospital, Viale Oxford 81, Rome 00133, Italy

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BMC Cancer 2013, 13:230  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-13-230

Published: 7 May 2013



To identify predictive factors of radiation-induced skin toxicity in breast cancer patients by the analysis of dosimetric and clinical factors.


339 patients treated between January 2007 and December 2010 are included in the present analysis. Whole breast irradiation was delivered with Conventional Fractionation (CF) (50Gy, 2.0/day, 25 fractions) and moderate Hypofractionated Schedule (HS) (44Gy, 2.75Gy/day, 16 fractions) followed by tumour bed boost. The impact of patient clinical features, systemic treatments and, in particular, dose inhomogeneities on the occurrence of different levels of skin reaction has been retrospectively evaluated.


G2 and G3 acute skin toxicity were 42% and 13% in CF patients and 30% and 7.5% in HS patients respectively. The retrieval and revaluation of 200 treatment plans showed a strong correlation between areas close to the skin surface, with inhomogeneities >107% of the prescribed dose, and the desquamation areas as described in the clinical records.


In our experience dose inhomogeneity underneath G2 – G3 skin reactions seems to be the most important predictor for acute skin damage and in these patients more complex treatment techniques should be considered to avoid skin damage. Genetic polymorphisms too have to be investigated as possible promising candidates for predicting acute skin reactions.