Prevention of Chemotherapy-induced Toxicities


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Several randomized, controlled trials demonstrated reduced severity of mucositis among patients with HNC who received zinc supplementation compared with placebo.

A randomized, placebo-controlled trial of 30 patients demonstrated reduced severity, longer time to development, and earlier improvement of mucositis with zinc sulfate compared with placebo.14 Another trial also found reduced severity of mucositis with zinc supplementation compared with placebo among patients with HNC who underwent radiotherapy, but not among those with nasopharyngeal carcinoma.15,16

A randomized, placebo-controlled trial of 40 patients with HNC who received radiotherapy or chemoradiotherapy demonstrated reduced prevalence (40% vs 70.5%, respectively; P < .0001), severity (P = .0001), and lower Oral Mucositis Assessment Scale (OMAS; P = .0001) with zinc supplementation (30 mg) compared with placebo starting 10 days before treatment and for 2 weeks after treatment completion.17

Two other randomized, placebo-controlled studies, however, found no significant difference in incidence or severity of mucositis with zinc supplementation.18,19


A randomized, placebo-controlled trial of 169 patients with HNC found no difference in radiotherapy-induced taste alterations (dysgeusia) among patients who received zinc or placebo supplementation.20,21

Another randomized, placebo-controlled study, however, demonstrated mitigated worsening and quicker recovery of taste acuity with zinc sulfate compared with placebo among patients receiving radiotherapy.22

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Though the data remain mixed, there is no strong evidence for the risk reduction of several different types of cancer with zinc supplementation as part of a multivitamin.

Several studies demonstrated improved outcomes in terms of radiotherapy-induced mucositis or taste alteration with zinc sulfate supplementation among patients with HNC, though these findings are inconsistent.

Overall, the evidence for the benefits of zinc to prevent cancer or mitigate anticancer treatment toxicity is mixed, though zinc supplementation is well-tolerated and does not appear to cause harm.


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