Will Capecitabine Make Me Lose My Fingerprints?

Cancer drug has weird but rare side effect


Tommy Flynn/Getty Images

The thought of not having fingerprints may be embraced by the criminally minded person, but for the average Joe, the thought is disabling. Just ask the Singapore man who tried to enter the U.S. and was detained because he did not have fingerprints. The culprit? Capecitabine.

Hand-Foot Syndrome With Capecitabine (Xeloda)

Fingerprint loss is a rare possibility when taking the drug capecitabine, also known as Xeloda by its trade name. The cause of fingerprint loss is related to a side effect of the drug called hand-foot syndrome (HFS), which causes redness, tingling, and dryness of the hands and feet. These side effects can develop into more serious symptoms, like the peeling and blistering of the hands and soles of the feet. Other cancer drugs can cause HFS, but it occurs most often in people taking capecitabine.

Prevention and early medical intervention are key when it comes to HFS. Typically, a person will experience numbness and tingling in the hands and/or feet before peeling begins, so it is so important to notify your doctor as soon as this occurs. If left untreated, more serious complications can develop, such as peeling and the formation of blisters and ulcers on the palms and soles of the hands and feet. The effects of HFS can greatly interfere with daily activities like walking and picking up objects.

Fingerprint loss is a rare occurrence with taking the drug. It is believed that the length of time that the drug is taken and how long it takes the body to metabolize it are important factors in the development of rare side effects like fingerprint loss. It has been recommended that if you are taking capecitabine and travel to countries that require fingerprint identification for an entry that you carry a letter from your oncologist detailing your treatment of capecitabine and its possible side effects.

It is important to note that most people who take cancer drugs that are associated with HFS do not develop severe cases of it. Mild HFS can be common, especially with capecitabine, but for most people, it never develops beyond that.

Other Side Effects 

If you are criminally-minded, capecitabine should not be your first choice for covering your crimes. A common side effect is diarrhea, which can make it harder to plan and execute your caper. It reduces your ability to fight infection and reduces the clot-forming platelets in your blood. It also can interact with anticoagulants and increase your risk of bleeding, it has a red box warning for this interaction as it could be fatal. Leaving a blood trail at the scene of your crime is as bad as leaving fingerprints.

Was this page helpful?

Article Sources

  • "Capecitabine," MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, NIH. 10/15/2011.