World Journal of Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 30, Issue 2, pp 351–374 | Cite as

A potential role of probiotics in colorectal cancer prevention: review of possible mechanisms of action

  • Esther Swee Lan ChongEmail author


A number of investigations, mainly using in vitro and animal models, have demonstrated a wide range of possible mechanisms, by which probiotics may play a role in colorectal cancer (CRC) prevention. In this context, the most well studied probiotics are certain strains from the genera of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. The reported anti-CRC mechanisms of probiotics encompass intraluminal, systemic, and direct effects on intestinal mucosa. Intraluminal effects detailed in this review include competitive exclusion of pathogenic intestinal flora, alteration of intestinal microflora enzyme activity, reduction of carcinogenic secondary bile acids, binding of carcinogens and mutagens, and increasing short chain fatty acids production. Reduction of DNA damage and suppression of aberrant crypt foci formation have been well demonstrated as direct anti-CRC effects of probiotics on intestinal mucosa. Existing evidence clearly support a multifaceted immunomodulatory role of probiotics in CRC, particularly its ability to modulate intestinal inflammation, a well known risk factor for CRC. The effectiveness of probiotics in CRC prevention is dependent on the strain of the microorganism, while viability may not be a prerequisite for certain probiotic anticancer mechanisms, as indicated by several studies. Emerging data suggest synbiotic as a more effective approach than either prebiotics or probiotics alone. More in vivo especially human studies are warranted to further elucidate and confirm the potential role of probiotics (viable and non-viable), prebiotics and synbiotics in CRC chemoprevention.


Probiotics Colorectal Colon Cancer Mechanisms Inflammation 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Food, Nutrition and Human HealthMassey UniversityPalmerston NorthNew Zealand

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