Cancer treatment, food handling and infections

Cancer and cancer treatments weaken the body’s immune system by affecting white blood cells that protect against disease. As a result, your body cannot fight infection as well as a healthy person’s body can.

Good food hygiene, such as the basic guidelines below, is important for everybody. However, if you have had a bone marrow transplant or your white cell count is low, particularly during chemotherapy, extra care needs to be taken with food preparation as you will be more susceptible to food-borne illness. Most food poisoning results from improper handling and improper storage of food. Speak to your doctor or dietitian regarding any special food handling conditions which may apply to your stage of treatment.

Basic food safety guidelines

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before you prepare or eat food.
  • Choose freshly cooked and freshly prepared foods. Take care when eating out, as it can be difficult to know whether food safety guidelines are being followed. When possible ask for meals to be made fresh and avoid foods that have been sitting for unknown periods of time.
  • Always thaw frozen food in the fridge or defrost in the microwave, rather than on the bench and do not re–freeze thawed food.
  • Keep raw meat covered, and keep it separate from cooked food or ready–to–eat food. Use separate utensils and chopping boards for raw meat and vegetables.
  • Thoroughly wash knives, cutting boards and food preparation areas with hot soapy water before preparing food.
  • Thoroughly wash and dry all fruit and vegetables, especially if eating them raw or juicing them.
  • Make sure all meat, poultry, fish and eggs are very well cooked.
  • Make sure foods are steaming hot when re–heated. Heat food for at least two to three minutes to above 70°C all the way through.
  • Hot food should be kept above 70°C, and cold food below 5°C.
  • Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold, especially meat, chicken and seafood. Refrigerate leftover food immediately – don’t let it cool on the benchtop, and consume within 24 hours.
  • Check the use–by dates on packaged foods and dispose of any food that is out of date.

It is important to take care and potentially avoid the following high risk foods, as they may contain bacteria or viruses that can cause food-borne illnesses:

  • Pre–made sandwiches or salads, sushi or food from food warmers or buffets.
  • Raw and undercooked seafood, meats and poultry. Make sure these foods are cooked thoroughly and reheated until they’re steaming hot.
  • Cold deli meats and chicken – packaged or unpackaged – unless reheated to steaming hot.
  • Foods containing raw or partially cooked eggs, e.g. homemade mayonnaise, mousse, egg nog.
  • Cold smoked seafood and ‘ready–to–eat’ peeled prawns.
  • Raw sprouts and commercial ‘ready–to–eat’ deli salads, including pre–cut fruit salads.
  • Pate, liverwurst and meat spreads.
  • Soft, semi–soft and surface ripened cheeses such as blue, brie, camembert, ricotta and feta.
  • Soft–serve ice creams and drinks made with soft–serve ice cream.
  • Unpasteurised dairy products such as raw goat’s milk, cheeses and yoghurts made from raw milk.
This information was last reviewed in June 2013

This information has been reviewed by: Jenelle Loeliger, Head – Nutrition Department, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Kate Aigner, Cancer Information Consultant, Cancer Council Helpline ACT; Ian Anderson, Consumer; Anna Boltong, PhD Candidate (Dietitian), Department of Cancer Experiences Research, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Clare Hughes, Nutrition Program Manager, Cancer Council NSW; Bridget Kehoe, Public Health Coordinator (Nutrition and Physical Activity), Cancer Council QLD; Steve Pratt, Nutrition and Physical Activity Manager, Cancer Council WA; and Roswitha Stegmann, Helpline Nurse, Cancer Council WA.

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Instructions for downloading and reading EPUB files

Apple devices

The iBooks application must be installed on your Apple device before you can read the EPUB.
Different ways to download an EPUB file to your Apple device:

  • email EPUB files to yourself and transfer the attachment to iBooks.
  • copy EPUB files into DropBox (or a similar service) and use the DropBox app to send them to iBooks.
  • open EPUB files directly from Mobile Safari and open them in iBooks, where they are saved automatically by downloading the EPUB from the website.

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To download an EPUB file to your Kobo from a Windows computer:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • select “Open folder to view files” to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

To download an EPUB to your Kobo from a Mac:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • open your “Finder” application.
  • select “Kobo eReader” from the listed devices to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, probably in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

Turn on your Kobo and your EPUB will be located in “eBooks”, while a PDF will be located in “Documents”.
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Sony Reader

To download an EPUB file on your Sony Reader™:

  • ensure you have already installed the Reader™ Library for PC/Mac software
  • select the eBook you want from our website and click the link to download it.
  • connect the Reader™ to your computer.
  • open the Reader™ Library software and click “Library” in the left-hand pane and select the eBook to view it.

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Amazon Kindle 2nd Generation devices

EPUB files can’t be read on the Amazon Kindle™. However, like most eReaders, Kindle™ 2nd Generation devices are able to display PDFs. We recommend that you download the PDF version of this booklet if you would like to read it on a Kindle™.
To transfer a PDF to your Kindle™ via USB cable from your computer or Mac:

  • download the PDF directly onto your computer.
  • connect the USB cable to your computer’s USB port, and the micro USB end of the cable to your Kindle™. Note: the Kindle™ won’t be available as a reading device while it is connected to your computer until it has been disconnected.
  • open the Kindle™ drive and several folders will appear inside. The “Documents” folder is where you will need to copy or drag the PDF to.
  • safely eject your Kindle™ from your computer and unplug the USB cable. Your content will appear on the Home Screen.

Kindle also provides a Kindle Personal Documents Service that allows users to send documents as an attachment directly to your eReader. For more information on this service, visit
For more information on accessing a PDF on your Kindle™, visit, log in to your account and click on Personal Document Settings.
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Android and PC

You can also download and open eBooks on Android devices and PCs with appropriate apps or software installed. Suitable eReader apps for Android include Google Play Books, FBReader and Moon+ Reader. Suitable software for PCs include Calibre and Adobe Digital Editions.