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Bleomycin is used to treat various types of cancers such as squamous cell carcinoma (which can affect the mouth, sinuses, esophagus, larynx, genitalia or cervix), cancer of the blood, Hodgkin’s disease (cancer of white blood cells), cancers of the lungs and abdomen causing fluid build-up, malignant melanoma (a type of skin cancer), testicular teratoma (testicular cancer like tumor) and cancer of the bladder or thyroid.

How it works

Bleomycin belongs to a class of drugs called as anticancer antibiotics. It works by producing ions that get incorporated into the DNA of the cancer cells and stops their growth.

Common side effects

Acne-like rash, Blisters on skin, Changes in skin color, Hair loss, Loss of appetite, Mouth ulcer, Skin thinning, Swelling, Skin redness, Weight loss, Sick, Vomiting


Expert advice

  • Inform your doctor before taking bleomycin if you have severe heart disease, kidney problems, lung problems requiring use of oxygen, impaired liver function, and chicken pox or if you are about to undergo a surgery.
  • Inform your doctor before taking bleomycin if you are taking other anticancer/cytotoxic drugs such as vinca alkaloids or cisplatin, drugs such as clozapine or if you have received radiation in the chest area.
  • Seek immediate medical advice if you develop dry cough, breathlessness, rapid breathing or any other lung problems.
  • Do not drive or operate heavy machinery after taking this drug as it may make you feel weak or tired.
  • Tell your doctor if you are or planning to become pregnant or are breastfeeding.

Frequently asked questions


Q. What does bleomycin treat?
Bleomycin is used to treat squamous cell cancers, certain types of blood cancers, skin cancers and cancer of the thyroid, bladder, lungs, abdomen or genitals.
Q. Does bleomycin cause pulmonary fibrosis, nausea or hair loss?
Yes. Bleomycin may cause pulmonary fibrosis, nausea and hair loss. If you notice any such symptoms, please consult your doctor.
Q. How does bleomycin cause pulmonary fibrosis?
Pulmonary fibrosis (scarring of the tissue of the lungs) is one of the side effects of bleomycin. It is reportedly caused by lack of an enzyme that metabolises bleomycin in the lungs.

Content on this page was last updated on 30 September, 2016, by Dr. Varun Gupta (MD Pharmacology)