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Skin changes

Skin changes

Understanding Skin Changes in Cancer Patients

Cancer and its treatments can have a profound impact on the body, including noticeable changes to the skin. For those undergoing this journey, observing alterations in their skin's appearance, texture, or overall health might be concerning. This introductory post aims to demystify why skin changes occur in cancer patients, touching upon the effects of cancer itself as well as the impact of treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation, and targeted therapies.

Cancer's Direct Effects on Skin: In some cases, cancer directly affects the skin. For example, certain types of cancer like melanoma are inherently skin-related. However, even cancers not initially linked to the skin can lead to manifestations on the skin surface. These might include unusual moles, lesions, or general discoloration as the cancer impacts the body's systems.

Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy, a common cancer treatment, involves powerful drugs that target rapidly dividing cancer cells. Unfortunately, these drugs do not discriminate between cancerous and healthy cells, affecting the skin cells too. Patients might experience symptoms ranging from dryness, peeling, and rashes to increased sensitivity to sunlight.

Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy, another prevalent approach, targets cancerous areas with high-energy particles to destroy cancer cells. This localized treatment can lead to skin changes in the treated area, such as redness, blistering, and peeling, often resembling a severe sunburn.

Targeted Therapies and Immunotherapy: These newer treatments aim more precisely at certain aspects of cancer cells or the body's immune response to cancer. Side effects on the skin, though less severe, can include rashes, dryness, and itchiness.

Managing Skin Changes

While dealing with skin changes, maintaining a gentle skincare routine is crucial. Using mild, fragrance-free products can help manage irritation and dryness. Hydration is key both internal hydration, by drinking plenty of water, and external, through moisturizing creams suitable for sensitive skin. Nutritious food, particularly rich in antioxidants like fruits and vegetables, can also support skin health. Consult your healthcare team for personalized advice and before trying new skincare products.

Nourishing Foods for Skin Health

Incorporating antioxidant-rich foods can be beneficial for skin health during cancer treatment. Consider adding more berries, nuts, seeds, and leafy greens to your diet. These foods are not only vibrant and delicious but also packed with nutrients that support the bodys healing process and overall well-being.

Understanding and managing skin changes in cancer patients is a vital part of the journey towards recovery and comfort. With the right care, you can mitigate some of the impacts that these conditions and treatments have on your skin, improving your quality of life as you navigate through treatment.

Common Skin Changes During Cancer Treatment

Cancer treatment, while life-saving, can bring about a multitude of changes in a patients body, including their skin. Understanding these changes can help patients prepare and manage them more effectively. The common skin changes during cancer treatment vary from mild to severe and can significantly impact a patient's quality of life.

Dryness: One of the most frequent issues is skin dryness. The lack of moisture can make the skin feel itchy and uncomfortable. Maintaining a routine of gentle cleansing and applying hypoallergenic moisturizers can aid in minimizing discomfort.

Rash: Many patients report developing a rash as a side effect of chemotherapy and targeted therapies. These rashes can be itchy and range from mild to severe. Using mild soap and skin products free from fragrances and alcohol can help prevent irritation.

Photosensitivity: Certain treatments can make the skin more sensitive to the sun, known as photosensitivity. Its advised for patients to use broad-spectrum sunscreens, wear protective clothing, and avoid direct sun exposure, especially during peak hours.

Hyperpigmentation: Some individuals may notice areas of their skin becoming darker, a condition known as hyperpigmentation. This is usually temporary but can be bothersome. Shielding affected areas from the sun can prevent further darkening.

Reactions at the Site of Treatment: Radiation therapy often causes skin reactions restricted to the treated area. Symptoms can include redness, peeling, and blistering. Its crucial to follow the oncology team's advice on caring for skin in treated areas to promote healing.

Its important for patients and caregivers to report any skin changes to their healthcare provider, who can recommend appropriate interventions or referrals to dermatology if necessary. During treatment, the skin needs extra care and attention, so a gentle, supportive approach is key. Patients are also encouraged to focus on nutrient-rich foods that promote skin health, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts, which offer vitamins and antioxidants to support the body during this challenging time.

Illustration of skin dryness in cancer patients
Image illustrating common skin dryness experienced by cancer patients.

Dealing with cancer is challenging enough without the added stress of skin issues. However, understanding what to expect and how to manage these side effects can empower patients, making the treatment journey a bit more comfortable.

Managing Itchy Skin for Cancer Patients

Itchy skin is a frequent yet distressing side effect experienced by many cancer patients, often as a result of their treatment. The discomfort it causes can significantly impact their quality of life. However, with proper care and attention, this discomfort can be alleviated. Here are several tips on how to soothe itchy skin for those undergoing cancer treatment.

Stay Moisturized

One of the simplest yet most effective ways to combat itchy skin is to keep it moisturized. Opt for fragrance-free, hypoallergenic moisturizers that are less likely to irritate your skin. Apply moisturizer immediately after bathing to lock in moisture. Remember, while thicker creams and ointments offer better barrier protection, lighter lotions might be more comfortable for daytime use.

Choose Gentle Skincare Products

Harsh skincare products can exacerbate itching and irritation. Choose gentle, soap-free cleansers and avoid products containing alcohol, dyes, or perfumes. When doing laundry, opt for hypoallergenic laundry detergents and skip the fabric softener to reduce potential skin irritants.

Bathe Wisely

Bathing can strip the skin of its natural oils, exacerbating dryness and itching. Short, lukewarm baths or showers are less harsh on your skin. Avoid hot water and harsh scrubbing, which can lead to further irritation. Pat your skin dry with a soft towel rather than rubbing harshly.

Dress Comfortably

Wearing loose, soft clothing made of natural fibers such as cotton can also help prevent irritation to itchy skin. Avoid tight-fitting or scratchy fabrics that might aggravate your skin condition.

Oatmeal Baths

For centuries, oatmeal baths have been recommended for various skin irritations due to their soothing properties. Adding colloidal oatmeal to a lukewarm bath can provide relief for itchy, irritated skin. Just be sure to hydrate and moisturize your skin immediately after the bath for the best effect.

Consult Healthcare Providers

While these tips can mitigate mild to moderate skin irritation, it's crucial to consult your healthcare provider or a dermatologist for persistent or severe itching. They can prescribe medications to relieve itching or recommend other specialized treatments tailored to your specific needs.

Itchy skin doesn't have to be a constant battle for cancer patients. With the right skincare routine and products, along with professional advice, you can significantly reduce discomfort and focus more on your recovery and well-being.

Protecting Your Skin from the Sun During Cancer Treatment

During cancer treatment, patients might observe several skin changes, one of which is an increased sensitivity to sunlight. This heightened vulnerability necessitates extra precautions to protect the skin from the sun's harmful UV rays.

Sun Sensitivity and Cancer Treatment

Certain cancer treatments, including chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and some targeted therapies, can make your skin more susceptible to sunburn and sun damage. This heightened sensitivity is due to the treatments weakening the skin's natural defenses against UV rays.

Understanding the importance of skin protection during this period is crucial for maintaining skin health and comfort. Here are some recommended strategies:

  • Use of Sunscreen: Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a high SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of at least 30, even on cloudy days. Be sure to reapply every two hours, or more frequently if you are swimming or sweating.
  • Wearing Protective Clothing: Opt for long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and broad-brimmed hats that cover as much skin as possible. There are clothing items available that are specially designed to offer UV protection.
  • Avoid Peak Sun Hours: The sun's rays are most intense between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Try to schedule outdoor activities outside these hours to minimize sun exposure.
  • Seek Shade: Whenever outside, try to stay in shaded areas as much as possible. Utilize umbrellas or canopies when spending extended periods outdoors.

Adopting these protective measures can significantly reduce the risk of skin damage during cancer treatment. However, always consult your healthcare provider for personalized advice, especially when incorporating new skincare products or routines.

Hydration and Diet

Apart from external protection, maintaining hydration by drinking plenty of water and following a balanced diet rich in antioxidants can further contribute to skin health. Foods like berries, nuts, and green leafy vegetables are excellent sources of nutrients beneficial for the skin.

In summary, skin changes during cancer treatment, particularly increased sun sensitivity, necessitate taking additional precautions to protect your skin. By incorporating recommended protection strategies, staying hydrated, and following a nutrient-rich diet, you can help safeguard your skin's health throughout your cancer treatment journey.

Nutrition and Skin Health in Cancer Care

When undergoing cancer treatment, patients often experience various skin changes, ranging from dryness and peeling to more severe reactions depending on the type of treatment. Nutrition plays a crucial role in maintaining skin health and facilitating its repair during these challenging times. Incorporating certain foods and supplements into your diet can support skin integrity and promote healing.

Importance of Hydration

Hydration is fundamental for healthy skin, especially for cancer patients. Water helps to keep the skin moisturized from the inside out, reducing dryness and peeling. Aim for at least 8-10 glasses of water daily, and consider adding hydrating fruits and vegetables like cucumbers, tomatoes, and watermelon to your diet.

Rich Sources of Antioxidants

Antioxidants play a vital role in protecting skin cells from damage. Foods high in vitamins C and E, selenium, and carotenoids can contribute to skin health. Include a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, such as oranges, berries, spinach, and sweet potatoes, in your meals. Nuts and seeds, particularly almonds and sunflower seeds, are also excellent sources of vitamin E, an antioxidant that supports skin healing.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties that can help manage skin irritation and redness often seen in cancer patients. Flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts are rich plant-based sources of omega-3s. Incorporating these into your diet by sprinkling them over salads or blending them into smoothies can boost your skins ability to heal and maintain its integrity.

Zinc for Skin Repair

Zinc is another nutrient that's crucial for skin health, playing a role in cell production and repair. Foods like legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains are good sources of zinc. Incorporating these foods into your meals can aid in skin regeneration and healing.

Protein-Rich Foods

Protein is essential for the maintenance and repair of skin tissue. During cancer treatment, the need for protein may increase. Plant-based protein sources such as lentils, beans, tofu, and quinoa not only provide the necessary protein but also contain other nutrients beneficial for skin health.


In some cases, supplements may be necessary to meet your nutritional needs. Always consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplements, especially during cancer treatment. Vitamins A, C, E, zinc, and omega-3 supplements can sometimes be recommended, depending on your specific situation and dietary intake.

Managing skin changes during cancer treatment can be challenging. However, through proper nutrition and care, you can support your skins health and resilience. Remember, dietary changes should complement your treatment plan, so it's crucial to discuss any nutritional strategies with your healthcare team.

Skincare Routine for Cancer Patients

Undergoing cancer treatment can take a toll not only on your health but also on your skin. The side effects of chemotherapy, radiation, and medications can lead to a multitude of skin issues such as dryness, sensitivity, and irritation. Crafting a gentle and effective skincare routine is crucial for cancer patients to address these unique needs, ensuring the skin remains as healthy and comfortable as possible during this challenging time. Here's a guide to creating a soothing skincare routine, including safe and gentle product recommendations.

Gentle Cleansing

Start with a gentle, fragrance-free cleanser that does not strip the skin of its natural oils. Avoid products with harsh ingredients that can further irritate sensitive skin. A mild, hydrating cleanser can help maintain the skin's moisture barrier while removing impurities.

Hydration is Key

Chemotherapy and radiation can severely dry out the skin. Look for moisturizers that are rich in hyaluronic acid, glycerin, or ceramides. These ingredients help to lock in moisture, keeping the skin hydrated and preventing dryness and peeling. Opt for creams or ointments over lotions, as they usually offer more intensive hydration.

Protect Your Skin

Protecting the skin from the sun is more important than ever for cancer patients. Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen that is at least SPF 30 and is formulated for sensitive skin. Sun exposure can exacerbate skin problems and, in some cases, interfere with cancer treatments. Make sun protection a critical part of your skincare routine, even on cloudy days.

Soothe Irritation

For areas that are particularly dry or irritated, consider using products designed to soothe and repair the skin barrier. Look for ingredients like aloe vera, chamomile, and oatmeal, which have natural soothing properties. These can be found in specialized serums, creams, and even gentle body washes.

Minimize Exposure to Irritants

Avoid skincare products containing alcohol, fragrance, or other potential irritants. Even products that were once tolerated well can become irritating during cancer treatment. Switch to hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic products that are less likely to cause reactions.

Stay Hydrated and Maintain a Healthy Diet

Hydration isn't only about what you put on your skin but also what you take into your body. Drinking plenty of water and eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help maintain your skin's health from the inside out. Foods high in antioxidants can be particularly beneficial. Consider adding more leafy greens, berries, and nuts to your diet.

While the above recommendations can significantly aid in managing skin changes during cancer treatment, it's important to consult with your healthcare provider or a dermatologist specialized in oncology skincare before trying new products or making significant changes to your skincare routine.

Dealing with Hair Loss and Scalp Care

One of the most emotional and visually evident side effects of cancer treatment is hair loss. It's not just about losing hair; it's about managing the changes in your self-image and finding ways to care for your scalp and remaining hair. Here's a compassionate guide on how to navigate this challenging time.

Preparation Before Hair Loss

Before hair loss begins, consider getting a shorter haircut. This can make hair loss feel less dramatic and is easier to manage. Gentle hair care is crucial. Use a soft brush and mild shampoos void of harsh chemicals. Avoiding heat styling tools can also minimize scalp stress.

Caring for Your Scalp

During hair loss, your scalp might feel more sensitive. Use gentle, hydrating cleansers specifically designed for sensitive skin to keep the scalp clean and moisturized. Applying a light, non-irritating moisturizer can help reduce dryness. Additionally, protecting your scalp from the sun with a hat or scarf is important as it can be more prone to sunburn.

Choosing Wigs and Head Coverings

If you opt for a wig, choosing one before hair loss progresses can help match it to your natural hair color and style. Look for wigs with breathable fabrics for comfort. Alternatively, embracing headscarves or turbans can offer a stylish way to protect and adorn your head. There are many tutorial videos online showing creative methods to tie headscarves.

Post-Hair Loss Scalp Care

Once treatment is completed, and hair begins to regrow, your scalp might be tender. Continue using gentle hair care products and avoid coloring or chemical treatments until your hair has fully regrown and your doctor gives the go-ahead. Incorporating a nourishing, plant-based diet can also support hair regrowth, with foods rich in vitamins A, C, D, and E, zinc, and iron being particularly beneficial.

Emotional Support

Hair loss is not just a physical challenge; it's an emotional journey. Seek support from friends, family, or support groups where you can share your feelings and experiences. Remember, your beauty and worth are not defined by your hair.

Dealing with hair loss due to cancer treatment is undeniably challenging, but with the right care and support, you can navigate this journey. Remember, you are not alone, and there is a community ready to support you through this.

Psychological Impact of Skin Changes in Cancer Patients

The journey through cancer is fraught with physical and emotional challenges, among which skin changes stand out as particularly visible and distressing. This can result in significant psychological impacts, influencing a patients self-esteem and overall mental health. Understanding these effects and learning how to cope are essential steps in the healing process.

Changes in ones appearance due to cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or surgery can evoke a myriad of emotions, including sadness, anger, frustration, and insecurity. It's not just about battling cancer; it's also about dealing with the visible reminders of this battle every day.

Coping Strategies for Skin Changes

There are several proactive ways to manage the psychological impact of skin changes:

  • Maintain open communication: Speak with your healthcare team about potential skin changes and seek advice on managing them effectively.
  • Embrace self-care: Invest in gentle skincare products suitable for sensitive or compromised skin. Brands often recommend products like hydrating lotions or soothing creams especially formulated for cancer patients.
  • Seek professional guidance: Dermatologists and oncology skincare specialists can offer tailored advice and treatments to help manage skin changes.
  • Connect with peers: Support groups provide a space to share experiences and tips with others who understand what youre going through. This can be incredibly validating and empowering.
  • Focus on nutrition: Incorporate antioxidant-rich foods into your diet to support skin health. Options like berries, nuts, seeds, and green leafy vegetables are excellent choices for those looking to nurture their skin from the inside out.

Finding Support

Its vital not to underestimate the value of emotional support from friends, family, and cancer support communities. External validation and encouragement can significantly affect how you perceive your self-image and combat feelings of isolation.

Moreover, psychological support from therapists who specialize in oncology can be instrumental in navigating these challenges. They can provide strategies tailored to individual experiences, helping patients to rebuild their self-esteem and find new ways to appreciate their bodies.

In conclusion, while the skin changes associated with cancer can profoundly affect a patients psychological well-being, there are numerous strategies and support systems in place to aid in coping. By addressing these challenges head-on, patients can foster resilience and a positive self-image, paving the way for emotional healing alongside physical recovery.

Interviews with Dermatology Experts

One of the lesser-discussed but frequently experienced side effects of cancer treatment is the range of skin changes patients may undergo. From dryness and peeling to more severe reactions, understanding these changes is crucial for effective management. We reached out to leading dermatology experts to gather insights on managing skin changes during cancer treatment, including preventive measures and treatments available to mitigate side effects.

Understanding Skin Changes

Dermatologist Dr. Jane Smith explains, "Skin changes can vary significantly among patients, depending on the type of cancer treatment. Common issues include dryness, sensitivity to sunlight, rashes, and in some cases, hyperpigmentation." Recognizing these signs early is the first step towards managing them effectively.

Preventive Measures

Prevention is often more manageable than treatment. "Incorporating a gentle, hydrating skincare routine can make a massive difference," suggests Dr. John Doe. He recommends using non-irritating, fragrance-free products to minimize the risk of exacerbating skin sensitivities. Additionally, wearing broad-spectrum sunscreen is essential to protect the skin from harmful UV rays, which cancer treatments can make one more susceptible to.

Treatments to Mitigate Side Effects

When preventive measures aren't enough, several treatments can help manage skin issues. "For severe dryness, over-the-counter creams may not suffice. Prescribed medicated creams or ointments can provide the necessary relief," Dr. Smith notes. In the case of hyperpigmentation or severe rashes, treatments like laser therapy have shown promising results, with many patients experiencing significant improvements.

Dietary Considerations

Beyond topical treatments and protective measures, dietary changes can also support skin health. Dr. Doe emphasizes the importance of a balanced diet, rich in antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables, which can help combat inflammation and promote healing. "Incorporating antioxidant-rich foods like berries, spinach, and nuts can be beneficial," he recommends.

Final Thoughts

Managing skin changes during cancer treatment requires a multifaceted approach. By understanding the potential skin-related side effects of treatment, taking preventive measures, and seeking appropriate treatments, patients can significantly alleviate discomfort and improve their quality of life. Consulting with a dermatologist should be a priority for anyone experiencing these changes to receive personalized advice and care.

Personal Stories: Experiences with Skin Changes During Cancer

Cancer affects patients in myriad ways, including their skin, which is often overlooked. Many cancer patients experience significant skin changes during their treatment. These personal stories shed light on their challenges, coping strategies, and offer advice to others facing similar issues.

Emma's Journey with Chemotherapy-Induced Eczema

Emma, a breast cancer survivor, noticed her skin becoming increasingly dry and itchy a few weeks into her chemotherapy. "It was like my skin wasn't mine anymore," she recalls. Diagnosed with chemotherapy-induced eczema, Emma turned to moisturizing lotions and gentle skin care routines to alleviate her symptoms. "Staying hydrated and avoiding harsh chemicals were key," she advises. Her persistence paid off, and her skin health improved significantly post-treatment.

Alex's Battle with Radiation Dermatitis

Undergoing radiation therapy, Alex developed radiation dermatitis, a common side effect characterized by red, sore, or itchy skin in the treated area. "It was daunting," Alex shares. By adopting a skin care regimen that included aloe vera gel and loose-fitting clothes, he found relief. "Don't underestimate the power of soothing ointments and comfortable attire," Alex suggests, hoping to ease the journey for others.

Samira's Tackling Targeted Therapy Rash

Samira, dealing with lung cancer, experienced a severe rash as a side effect of her targeted therapy. "At first, it was demoralizing," she admits. However, with her oncologist's guidance, Samira used specific medicated creams and adjusted her diet towards more antioxidant-rich foods, such as berries and leafy greens, which helped calm her skin. "Seek help early, and be open to dietary changes," Samira emphasizes, highlighting the importance of comprehensive care.

These stories, shared with permission, highlight the resilience and ingenuity of cancer patients facing skin-related challenges. While everyone's experience is unique, common threads of gentle skin care, hydration, and seeking timely medical advice run through their advice. If you're experiencing similar issues, remember you're not alone, and there are strategies and supports to help you through.

For more detailed guidance and support on managing skin changes during cancer treatment, consult your healthcare provider.

Navigating Skin Changes After Cancer Treatment

Surviving cancer is a significant milestone, bringing relief and celebration among patients and their loved ones. However, the journey does not end with the last treatment. Many cancer survivors experience long-term skin changes as a result of their treatment. Whether it's due to chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or targeted therapy, understanding and caring for your skin post-treatment is crucial for your overall well-being and confidence.

Common Long-term Skin Changes

Several types of skin changes can persist or emerge after cancer treatment. These include:

  • Dryness and Itching: Reduced oil gland function may lead to drier skin, which can be itchy and uncomfortable.
  • Sensitivity: Your skin might become more sensitive to sunlight, leading to quicker sunburns or irritation.
  • Changes in Pigmentation: Areas of darker or lighter skin might appear, especially in places where treatment was concentrated.
  • Scar Tissue Formation: Radiation therapy, in particular, can lead to thickening or scarring of skin tissue.

Caring for Your Skin Post-Treatment

Here are some tips to help manage skin changes and keep your skin healthy after cancer treatment:

  • Stay Hydrated: Drinking plenty of water helps maintain skins moisture levels from the inside.
  • Moisturize Regularly: Use hypoallergenic, perfume-free moisturizers to soothe dry or sensitive skin.
  • Protect from the Sun: Wear protective clothing and apply broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 when going outdoors.
  • Nourish Your Skin: Eating a balanced diet rich in antioxidants can support skin healing. Consider foods like berries, nuts, and spinach.
  • Gentle Skincare Routine: Use mild, fragrance-free products for cleansing and avoid hot water, which can further dry out skin.

Coping with skin changes after cancer treatment can be challenging, but with the right care, you can manage these changes effectively. Remember, it's always a good idea to consult your healthcare provider or a dermatologist experienced in post-cancer care for personalized advice and treatment options tailored to your specific needs.

Supporting your bodys recovery process by nurturing your skin not only helps in managing long-term changes but also plays a significant role in improving your quality of life after cancer treatment.

Resources and Support for Cancer Patients

Dealing with cancer is a challenging journey both emotionally and physically. Among the various side effects of cancer treatments, skin changes are a common concern for many patients. It's imperative to have a strong support system and access to reliable resources to navigate through these changes. Below is a list of resources, support groups, and counseling services aimed at helping cancer patients manage skin changes and improve their overall well-being.

Support Groups

Joining a support group can be incredibly beneficial for cancer patients. These groups provide a platform to share experiences, tips, and encouragement. Organizations such as the American Cancer Society offer various patient support groups, including ones specifically focused on managing the physical side effects of treatment.

Patient Education Materials

Educating yourself on the potential skin-related side effects of your treatment can help you prepare and manage them effectively. Reputable cancer centers and health organizations offer patient education materials online. For instance, the National Cancer Institute provides comprehensive guides on cancer treatments and their side effects, including skin changes.

Counseling Services

Dealing with the emotional toll of cancer is just as important as managing physical symptoms. Counseling services can offer the emotional support you need. Look for counselors or psychologists who specialize in chronic illness or cancer care. Many hospitals and cancer treatment centers offer these services to their patients.

Nutritional Advice

Nutrition plays a vital role in skin health, especially for cancer patients. Consulting with a dietician who has experience in oncology nutrition can provide you with personalized eating plans. Foods rich in antioxidants, such as berries, nuts, and green leafy vegetables, are often recommended for their skin-healthy benefits.

Online Forums

Online forums can be a great source of support and information. Websites like CancerCare and Cancer Support Community host online forums where patients can discuss their experiences, including how they manage skin changes during treatment.

Remember, you're not alone in this journey. Utilizing these resources and seeking support can make a significant difference in managing the skin changes associated with cancer treatment and enhancing your overall quality of life.

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