Metallic Taste in Cancer Patients Treated with Systemic Therapy: A Questionnaire-based Study

Nutr Cancer. 2017 Jan;69(1):140-145. doi: 10.1080/01635581.2017.1250922. Epub 2016 Dec 7.


A metallic taste is reported by cancer patients as a side effect of systemic therapy. Despite the high prevalence, this taste alteration has received limited attention. The present study investigated: 1) the prevalence of metallic taste in cancer patients treated with systemic therapy; 2) possible predictors of metallic taste; and 3) characteristics of metallic taste. A heterogeneous population of 127 cancer patients, who had received systemic treatment in the past year or were still on treatment, completed a questionnaire developed for this study. Fifty-eight of 127 (46%) patients reported taste changes in the preceding week. Of these patients, 20 (34%) reported a metallic taste. Patients treated with chemotherapy, concomitant radiotherapy, as well as targeted therapy reported metallic taste. Women experienced metallic taste more often than men. Patients experiencing a metallic taste also reported more frequently that they were bothered by sour food and that everything tasted bitter. The experience of metallic taste was highly variable among patients. In conclusion, metallic taste is a frequently experienced taste alteration by cancer patients. Patients treated with chemotherapy, concomitant radiotherapy, and targeted therapy are all at risk for this taste alteration. However, not all patients reported this alteration as bothersome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / adverse effects
  • Radiotherapy / adverse effects*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Taste Disorders / chemically induced
  • Taste Disorders / etiology*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors