Oral health and chemotherapy act as cofactors in malnutrition in the elderly with other cancers than head and neck malignancies



This study explores whether the chemotherapy regimen has a role in inducing oral health problems and malnutrition in elderly patients with other cancers than head and neck malignancies.

Material and methods

An observational cross-sectional study was designed to compare the relationships between oral health and nutritional status between four groups of elderly differing in cancer or chemotherapy regimen. Data were collected using a questionnaire including the Mini-Nutritional Assessment (MNA), the Geriatric Oral Health Assessment Index (GOHAI) and questions about perception of xerostomia. The oral examinations recorded the number of functional dental units (PFU) and the presence of oral lesions.


The sample comprised 46 patients receiving chemotherapy, 48 patients on a non-chemotherapy regimen, 45 persons in complete remission not under treatment and 53 non-cancer patients. Oral health perception was significantly worse in chemotherapy patients. They reported limiting the kinds of food they consumed, the discomfort felt when eating and took medications for oral pain. Oral lesions were frequent in chemotherapy participants. Nutritional status was related to the cancer treatment regimen (OR = 4.17; p value = 0.017), the presence of oral lesions (OR = 4.51; p value = 0.003), perception of xerostomia (OR = 3.54; p value = 0.012), the number of PFU (OR = 2.51; p value = 0.046) and GOHAI score (OR = 1.617; p value = 0.019).


The presence of oral lesions and the chemotherapeutic regimen were highly associated with nutritional status in older patients with cancer.

Clinical relevance

Dental professionals should be asked to intervene preventively and per-therapy to optimise oral health status in elderly patients with other cancers than head and neck malignancies.

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The authors would like to thank Professor Paul Riordan (Write2Publish; http://correction-home.fr) and Accent Europe for corrections of the English manuscript. We would like to thank Professor Negib Geahchan for his supportive involvement in the study.


This work was supported by the Medical Research Council of Saint-Joseph University (grant number: FMD96 – CRENDUnovember2013).

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Martine Hennequin.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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El Osta, N., El Osta, L., Lassauzay, C. et al. Oral health and chemotherapy act as cofactors in malnutrition in the elderly with other cancers than head and neck malignancies. Clin Oral Invest 23, 235–243 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00784-018-2430-1

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  • Cancer
  • Oral health
  • Nutrition status
  • Elderly
  • Chemotherapy