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Expert interview: The influence of zinc in the diet of cancer patients

Expert interview: zinc in cancer treatment

We spoke to Dr. Karen Cardoso Inamassu, a graduate of the Federal University of Paraná and a specialist in oncology at the Teaching and Research Institute of Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein, about the influence of zinc on the diet of cancer patients.

Check out the interview below:

1 - Dr. Karen, what role does zinc play in the functioning of the human body?

Zinc is a cofactor of enzymes that act to fight free radicals, in the synthesis of DNA and RNA, in the normal function of the immune system, as well as in the integrity of the mucosal barrier of the gastrointestinal tract and lungs to prevent infections.

2 - Is there a link between low zinc intake and cancer?

Studies show that insufficient plasma zinc levels have been observed in patients who have started cancer treatment, when compared to healthy patients or patients with inflammatory diseases at the same site as the neoplasm.

3 - How important is zinc for patients undergoing cancer treatment?

Maintaining zinc levels during cancer treatment, especially chemotherapy, helps prevent or reduce adverse events such as hypogeusia, delayed healing, alopecia and various forms of skin lesions.

4 - How much zinc does an oncology patient need every day?

The daily recommendation for cancer patients should be the same as for healthy adults: 11 mg/day for men and 8 mg/day for women, and the need will only be increased if tests show deficiency or low levels.

5 - What foods can be recommended for cancer patients that are rich in zinc?

Beef, fish, poultry, milk and cheese, as well as seafood, whole grain cereals, wheat germ, beans and nuts, almonds, cashews and pumpkin seeds.

6 - Is there a link between lack of zinc and cachexia in cancer patients?

There is a lack of studies showing a direct relationship between zinc deficiency and cachexia in cancer patients, despite the fact that decreased serum levels have been observed in patients with these conditions.


Finally, Dr. Karen says that the consumption of any type of supplementation and clinical nutrition by cancer patients should be carried out under the supervision of a professional, as the timing of the treatment, food intake and types of medication used must be taken into account so that there is no adverse reaction in the patient.

Find out a little more about the Paraná Oncology Institute (IOP) and Dr. Karen Cardoso Inamassu:

  • The Paraná Oncology Institute (IOP) was founded in 1995, has a strong presence in its field and has established itself in the market through its management, highly specialized clinical staff and dedication to its patients. It is the only oncology clinic in Paraná currently Accredited ONA Level 1.
  • It has four service units in the city, offering medical consultations, outpatient chemotherapy (Headquarters and Oncoville unit) and support medication, as well as care for complications.
  • Dr. Karen Cardoso Inamassu is the nutritionist in charge of the IOP-Oncoville Unit. She has a degree in Nutrition from the Federal University of Paraná (UFPR), a specialist degree in clinical nutrition, nutritional therapy and practice from Gama Filho University and a specialist degree in oncology from the Teaching and Research Institute of the Albert Einstein Israelite Hospital.

Do you have any more questions about the importance of zinc in the diet of cancer patients? Leave a comment!

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