Honey against radiation induced oral mucositis in head and neck cancer patients. An Umbrella Review of Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses of the literature

Head and Neck Cancer

Gkantaifi A, et al. Rev Recent Clin Trials 2020.


Backround: Oral mucositis (OM) consists a major side effect of radiotherapy (RT) in head and neck (H-N) cancer patients and natural honey is gaining more and more scientific interest thanks to its beneficial effects in tissue repair.

OBJECTIVE: The aim of this review is to better clarify the preventive/therapeutic role of honey in the management of OM in patients with H-N cancer undergoing RT with or without chemotherapy (CT).

METHODS: We used the PubMed database to retrieve journal articles and the inclusion criteria were only reviews and MetaAnalyses that illustrated the effective use of honey for either the prevention or treatment of OM in H-N cancer patients receiving either RT alone or in combination with CT.

RESULTS: Our search resulted in 92 citations, of which 12 eventually fulfilled the inclusion criteria of our study. Decreased incidence and severity of OM, extended time of occurrence of mucositis, less weight loss and less treatment interruptions were occasionally documented with conventional honey use in the included reviews and Meta-Analyses. In contrast to conventional honey, manuka honey proved to be weak in improving OM management in the small number of included reviews in our search.

CONCLUSION: Conventional honey might constitute a highly promising natural product against OM attracting much scientific interest thanks to its easy accessibility and low financial cost. Hence, the lack of studies with high evidence requires further advanced research to enhance the existing knowledge about the potential value of honey in radiation induced OM in H-N cancer patients.