In a breakthrough study that could herald in a new drugs-free approach to treating colon cancer, researchers have discovered that sufferers lack certain enzymes known as metabolites, simple 'building-block' compounds, in their gut, and this can cause inflammation and cancer.
But using probiotics to reintroduce the enzymes into the gut prevents the disease and could even reverse it, say researchers from the Texas Children's Hospital.
Colon cancer sufferers are especially deficient in HDC, an enzyme that is needed to convert histidine to histamine, which can help protect against inflammation. The probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri 6475 is rich in HDC, and can reduce tumours within 15 weeks, the researchers have discovered in tests on laboratory mice.
In a separate study, researchers have concluded that eating whole grains every day reduces the risk of colorectal cancer, while consuming hot dogs, bacon and other processed meats most days increases the risk.
Three factors increase the risk: eating more than 500 g of red meat every week, being overweight or obese, or drinking two or more alcoholic drinks every day, say researchers from the American Institute for Cancer Research, who took another look at 99 studies that tracked more than 29 million people.
But eating three servings, around 90 grams, of whole grains every day reduces the risk by around 17 per cent.
Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the US, with 135,000 new cases being diagnosed every year. Around 47 per cent of these cases could be prevented just by making healthier lifestyle choices, the researchers say.