A cancer patient was detained for four hours by immigration officials in the US because one of his cancer drugs had caused his fingerprints to disappear. As a result, his oncologist has advised that all cancer patients receiving capecitabine should carry a doctor’s letter when travelling to the US. The 62-year-old patient had metastatic nasopharyngeal carcinoma that had responded well to chemotherapy; he was put on a maintenance dose of capecitabine to help prevent recurrence. A potential side-effect of the drug is hand-foot syndrome, chronic inflammation of the palms or soles that can result in skin peeling and the development of ulcers or blisters, which can lead to eradication of fingerprints. (Wong M, Choo SP, Tan EH. Ann Oncol 2009; 20(7):1281)

Originally published in the September 2009 edition of MIMS Oncology & Palliative Care.