Electron beam radiation for cutaneous lymphoma

Author: Anoma Ranaweera B.V. Sc; PhD (Clinical Biochemistry, University of Liverpool, UK), 2011.


Radiation therapy uses x-rays and electrons to treat skin tumours. The mycosis fungoides variant of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL) is one of the first type of cancers to be treated with radiation therapy only a few years after x-rays were discovered at the end of the 19th century.

Today, radiation therapy can be used to treat individual CTCL lesions (local) or the entire skin surface (total skin).

What is electron beam radiation?

Electron beam radiation is a special type of radiotherapy that consists of very tiny electrically charged particles generated in a machine called a linear accelerator and directed towards the skin.

Orthovoltage (low energy) x-ray therapy has been gradually replaced by electron beam radiation therapy in many centers treating CTCL.

Advantages of electron beam radiation over conventional x-rays

Orthovoltage (low energy) x-rays can effectively treat recurrent cutaneous lymphoma lesions, but its penetration to underlying tissues (blood vessels, muscles, bone marrow) can prove to be a distinct disadvantage if more widespread disease is evident.

In contrast, electron beam therapy delivers radiation primarily to the superficial layers (epidermis and dermis) of involved skin and spares the deeper tissues and organs any radiation effects.

Electron beam radiation is very damaging to the tumour cells but is fairly well tolerated by the surrounding normal skin cells.

How is electron beam radiation administered?

Electron beam radiation can be applied in two ways:

Localised electron beam therapy

Total skin electron beam therapy

There is no sensation or discomfort with electron beam treatment. Most people are able to tolerate the treatments well with minimal or moderate side effects.

How does electron beam radiation work?

Side effects of electron beam radiation for cutaneous lymphoma

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