Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death worldwide. In recent years, researchers have focussed on the role of the intestinal microbiota in both the prevention and the treatment of colorectal cancer.
The evidence in the literature supports that there is a fragile balance between different species of bacteria in the human gut. A disturbance of this balance towards increased levels of the bacteria Fusobacterium nucleatum and Bacteroides fragilis is associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer. The mechanisms involved include the release of toxins which activate inflammation and the regulation of specific miRNAs (with an increase in the expression of oncogenic miRNAs and a decrease in the expression of tumour suppressor miRNAs), thereby increasing cell proliferation and leading to tumorigenesis. On the other hand, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium have a protective effect against the development of colorectal cancer through mechanisms that involve an increase in the levels of anticarcinogenic metabolites such as butyrate and a decrease in the activity of proinflammatory pathways. Even though preliminary studies support that the use of probiotics in the prevention and management of colorectal cancer is promising, more research is needed in this field. Key Message: The association between the intestinal microbiota, diet and colorectal cancer remains an active area of research with expected future applications in the use of probiotics for the prevention and management of this significant disease.
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