Changes in taste and food preferences in breast cancer patients receiving chemotherapy: a pilot study

Yeon hee Kim, Gun Min Kim, Sungtaek Son, Mina Song, Sangun Park, Hyun Cheol Chung, Seung Min Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Cancer treatment may relate to appetite reduction and malnutrition. We investigated taste alterations and dish-type preferences during chemo- and/or radiation therapy in breast cancer patients. Methods: Breast cancer patients (BC, n = 59) scheduled to receive cancer therapy and healthy subjects (control group or CTRL, n = 49) were voluntarily recruited. Taste detection thresholds (DTs) and recognition thresholds (RT) were compared between pre-treatment BC patients and CTRL for sweet (sucrose), salty (NaCl), bitter (caffeine), and sour (citric acid) solutions. Changes in taste thresholds and dish preferences during treatment were monitored in the BC group. Blood chemistry and anthropometric data were collected. Results: At baseline, BC patients demonstrated lower sweet and salty DTs and RTs and a higher sour RT compared to CTRL. Bitter DT and RT were similar in both groups. Mild/soft dishes were preferred over fried/oily dishes by BC patients. Throughout treatment in BC patients, sweet thresholds significantly declined, while salty, bitter, and sour DTs and RTs were not affected, and there was no increase in preference for a dish. However, preference towards mild/soft dishes remained. While sweet-sour fruits and sweetened nuts were not favored during therapy. Conclusions: Sensitivities to sweet, salty, and sour but not bitter tastes differed between BC patients and CTRL. During treatment, sweet taste sensitivity increased while other tastes were unaffected. BC patients preferred mild/soft dishes over fried and sweetened dishes compared to CTRL. Our findings may contribute to developing dishes for breast cancer patients to increase food intake and thereby lower the risk of malnutrition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1265-1275
Number of pages11
JournalSupportive Care in Cancer
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Mar 1

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oncology


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