Modifications of taste sensitivity in cancer patients: a method for the evaluations of dysgeusia

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Taste changes due to chemotherapy may contribute to the high prevalence of malnutrition in cancer patients. It is believed that 50–70% of patients with cancer suffer from taste disorders. The aim of the present study was to analyze the taste alterations in patient population compared with that in controls, also in relation to gender. In this way, it could open to a new approach for a personalized diet to prevent and/or reduce taste alterations and malnutrition in cancer patients.


Forty-five cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy were compared with healthy controls (n = 32). Taste function test was used to determine taste sensitivity. Different concentrations for each of the four basic tastes (salty, sweet, sour, bitter) and also fat and water tastes were evaluated.


A significant difference in taste sensitivity between patients and control group was found, in line with previous similar studies. As in the control group, taste perception in patients was better in females than in males, suggesting interaction effect between group and gender.


Coping strategies regarding subjective taste impairment should be provided since alterations in taste sensitivity influence food preferences and appetite. Clinicians could thus have the potential to underpin changes in dietary intake and consequently in nutritional status; understanding the extent of the contribution of each taste would help in the development of effective interventions in future. Consequently, patients can adopt appropriate appetizing strategies and, based on that, change their feeding habits.

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The present work was supported by RSA to Prof. Laura Mazzanti, Università Politecnica delle Marche. We thank all patients for their time to participate in the study. Furthermore, we thank the staff of the following clinics that helped recruiting the participants: Dietology and Clinical Nutrition and Medical Oncology Clinic; Azienda Ospedaliero-Universitaria Ospedali Riuniti di Ancona Umberto I Lancisi Salesi, Ancona, Italy. Also, we would like to thank Vito Santoro, Margherita Mancini, and Laura Santinelli for their help during data collection.

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Correspondence to Laura Mazzanti.

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Pugnaloni, S., Vignini, A., Borroni, F. et al. Modifications of taste sensitivity in cancer patients: a method for the evaluations of dysgeusia. Support Care Cancer (2019) doi:10.1007/s00520-019-04930-x

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  • Chemosensory
  • Chemotherapy
  • Malnutrition
  • Quality of life
  • Gender