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Thursday 20th June 2019

Cancer patients food warning

16th December 2010

Health experts have suggested that advice for pregnant women on avoiding soft cheeses and certain other foods should be extended to cover cancer patients.


Health Protection Agency (HPA) research has found that cancer patients were at increased risk of food poisoning from listeria bacteria, a rare illness linked to soft cheeses and pate.

The findings were backed by the charity Cancer Research UK.

Head Information Nurses Martin Ledwick said: “Currently patients who are receiving high doses of chemotherapy should be advised to take precautions to avoid food-born infections.

“This study may suggest that this advice should be extended to all cancer patients having any type of treatment that compromises their immunity.

“However, as it is not clear from the work what type of treatments the cancer patients with listeria were having, it's not certain whether this precaution is absolutely necessary for all cancer patients.”

If caught during pregnancy, listeria can cause miscarriage and also lead to blood poisoning or meningitis in people with a weak immune system.

The HPA reviewed 1,413 people – though not pregnant women – with underlying conditions who had listeria between 1999 and 2009 in England and found that cancer patients were almost five times more at risk of catching listeria than people with other illnesses such as diabetes.

Dr Bob Adak of the HPA said: Our research has shown that those receiving cancer treatment or suffering from a variety of conditions, including diabetes, kidney or liver disease, should be offered appropriate health advice on how to avoid listeria.”


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