How should I prepare my food during cancer treatment?

Christina Rollins
Nutrition & Dietetics
Food safety is an important part of food preparation during cancer treatment. Many cancer therapies reduce your immune system, which puts you at an increased risk of infection. There are naturally occurring germs and bacteria on food that ordinarily don't both people, but can be deadly to someone with a weakened immune system.

The most important thing is to cook food thoroughly. Be sure to keep food out of the temperature danger zone, or between 40-140 degrees F, where bacteria likes to grow. Basically, keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold!  It is also to avoid undercooked meats as these may contain harmful germs. And remember to refrigerate leftover food as soon as possible. If a food has been at room temperature for more than 2 hours, throw it out. 

For more information, visit
While your receive cancer treatment your immune system is weak. The immune system helps the body fight infection and stay healthy. These guidelines can keep you safe from germs that could make you sick. This is especially important while the immune system is weak and blood counts are low.

Keep foods at a safe temperature. Cook hot food thoroughly and then keep it at least 135 degrees. If you’re not going to eat right away, refrigerate food immediately. Keep cold foods below 41 degrees. Some foods spoil especially fast. Don’t leave these foods at room temperature longer than 1 hour: Milk and dairy products, eggs (unless they’re pasteurized), all types of meat and fish, baked potatoes, tofu and other soy proteins, sprouts and sprout seeds, cut melons or tomatoes, garlic and oil mixtures, and cooked rice, beans, or vegetables.

Make sure your food is still good. Don’t eat spoiled or moldy foods. Don’t use eggs that have cracked before use. Don’t refreeze defrosted foods. Don’t taste anything that looks or smells strange.

Always prepare food in a clean area. Don’t cut cooked foods on the same surface as raw foods. Don’t use a wooden cutting board. Wash tops of cans before opening.

Continue Learning about Eating & Nutrition For Diseases

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.