Is honey safe for cancer patients

Cancer patients: with honey against mucositis

Oral mucositis, or inflammation of the lining of the mouth, is a serious complication of chemotherapy. Almost every second patient is affected. Irradiation of tumors in the head or neck region can also lead to inflammation of the oral mucosa, depending on the dose. Damage to the mucous membrane, such as minor ulcers, can be very painful, with negative consequences for nutrition, oral hygiene and quality of life.

Although various substances have been tested to prevent this side effect of cancer treatment, no effective means have yet been found. To remedy this, as soon as the oral mucosa is attacked, there are various options available, from mouthwashes with baking soda, hexetidine or iodine to alternative approaches with olive oil or honey.

Researchers at the Mangalore Institute of Oncology in India have now determined the effectiveness of honey in relieving inflammation and also examined whether this accompanying treatment was compatible with tumor control. The study was conducted in a head and neck cancer therapy center. 25 patients each were randomly given either the standard treatment (povidone with iodine) or honey to treat their mouths during the irradiation. Oral mucosal health and signs of mucosal inflammation were assessed using a standardized scoring system before, during, and after treatment by uninformed doctors.

Measure mitigation

Compared to the standard treatment with iodine, the honey treatment measurably reduced the inflammation of the oral mucosa caused by the radiation. Overall, compared to treatment without honey, the frequency of extremely painful and unbearable mucositis, the resulting interruption of radiation treatment and the number of days of treatment lost. At the same time, the effect of the radiation on the respective tumor was not influenced by the accompanying treatment.

At least when it comes to radiation therapy for tumors, honey can make a clear difference: Oral mucosal infections develop less often and are more tolerable compared to standard treatment, without the cancer therapy being negatively affected.

The honey therapy is currently being tested in clinical studies with children and adults during intensive chemotherapy. In one of these studies with patients with leukemia (ALL and AML), olive oil is also used as a further test active ingredient - also a solution that is not only useful in children for treating and possibly even preventing inflammation of the oral mucosa. These alternative approaches are gradually making their way to recognition as useful accompanying treatment in cancer therapy, certainly also with the support of the treating physicians. (red, May 29, 2018)