Food Safety for People with Cancer
Cancer patients are at a greater risk of suffering from a foodborne illness because of their weakened immune systems. Cancer treatments, such as radiation and chemotherapy, weaken the body’s immune system by affecting the blood cells that protect against disease and germs. This condition is known as neutropenia.
As a result, their body cannot fight infection, foreign substances, and disease, as well as a healthy person’s body can. Because of this higher risk, people with cancer or those preparing food for them must practice proper food-handling techniques to kill pathogens and avoid cross-contamination. Foodborne illness, which is caused by eating food that contains harmful bacteria, parasites, or viruses, can be severe and sometimes deadly. For example, cancer patients are 53% more likely to die from an adenovirus infection, whereas those with healthy immune systems rarely succumb to the virus.
What You Can Do
Learn about safety tips for those at increased risk of foodborne illness. Those living with cancer should always follow the four steps:
Clean: Wash hands and surfaces often
Separate: Separate raw meat and poultry from ready-to-eat foods
Cook: Cook food to the right temperatures
Chill: Chill raw meat and poultry as well as cooked leftovers promptly (within 2 hours)
If you or someone you care for receives prepared meals, visit our home-delivered meals page for information on how to keep these safe.
Download our FoodKeeper application to make sure you are storing food and beverages properly, and using them within recommended storage guidelines.
Food Safety for People with Cancer (FDA)
A need-to-know guide for people who have been diagnosed with cancer.