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Taste and smell dysfunction in childhood cancer survivors

Cohen, J., Laing, D.G., Wilkes, F.J., Chan, A., Gabriel, M. and Cohn, R.J. (2014) Taste and smell dysfunction in childhood cancer survivors. Appetite, 75 . pp. 135-140.

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Introduction: Reduced or altered taste and smell function may occur as a side-effect of cancer therapy. This can lead to altered nutrient and energy intake. Some studies have suggested that taste and smell dysfunction can persist many years after treatment completion but this has not been previously assessed in survivors of childhood cancer. The aim of this study is to determine if taste and smell dysfunction is present in childhood cancer survivors (CCS). Food preference and Quality of Life was also assessed. Methods: Fifty-one child cancer survivors (mean age: 19.69 ± 7.09 years), more than five years since treatment completion, (mean: 12.4 years) were recruited from the long term follow-up clinics at two Sydney-based children’s hospitals. Taste function was assessed using a 25 sample taste identification test comprising five concentrations each of sweet, salty, sour and bitter tastes and water. Smell function was assessed by determining the ability of participants to identify 16 common odorants. The participants’ Quality of Life was assessed using the Functional Assessment of Anorexia Cachexia scale and food preferences were assessed using a 94-item food liking tool. Results: Taste dysfunction was found in 27.5% of participants (n = 14), and smell dysfunction in 3.9% (n = 2) of participants. The prevalence of taste dysfunction was higher than that seen in the non-cancer population. The child cancer survivors’ appeared to “like” the less healthy food groups such as flavoured beverages, takeaway and snacks over healthier food groups such as vegetables and salad. No correlation was found between those with a taste dysfunction and their food “likes”. Conclusion: A high level of taste dysfunction was found in CCS though there did not appear to be an issue with smell dysfunction. Further work is also needed to assess whether a taste dysfunction do play a role in the dietary habits of CCS.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Psychology and Exercise Science
Publisher: Elsevier
Copyright: Elsevier
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