Bowel cancer is the second most common cause of cancer in Australians over 50 and while keeping weight in check, reducing alcohol and cigarette consumption and cutting back on processed meats may decrease the risk, researchers have identified an everyday dairy product that could reduce the likelihood of developing cancer-causing growths.
New research shows that men who eat two or more weekly servings of yoghurt can lower their risk of developing abnormal growths called adenomas, which occur before the development of bowel cancer. The study, published in the Gut Journal, found yoghurt consumption proved most beneficial for adenomas that are highly likely to become cancerous and for those located in the colon, rather than the rectum.
The latest study follows previous research which suggested that eating high volumes of yoghurt may lower the risk of bowel cancer by changing the type and volume of bacteria in the gut’s microbiome. To assess the impact yoghurt has with pre-cancerous growths, researchers analysed diets and the subsequent development of different types of adenomas in 32,606 men as part of the Health Professionals Follow Up Study and 55,743 women in the Nurses Health Study.
Each participant underwent a lower bowel endoscopy so a clinician could view the inside of the gut. The initial procedures took place between 1986 and 2012, while participants provided detailed information about their diet and lifestyle every four years after the endoscopy.
Researchers discovered that 5,811 men and 8,116 women developed adenomas and that, compared with men who didn’t eat yoghurt, those who ate two or more serves a week were 19 per cent less likely to develop conventional adenomas. In addition, there was a 26 per cent reduced risk for adenomas found in the colon that were likely to become cancerous.
Similar associations between yoghurt intake and the development of adenomas in women weren’t observed in the study. The study’s authors explained that because the study is observational, more research needs to be conducted to confirm the findings and uncover the biology involved. Still, due to the large sample study, researchers are confident the results of the findings add merit to bowel cancer research.
They hypothesised that two bacteria commonly found in live yoghurt, Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophiles, may lower chemicals that cause cancer in the gut. Another theory was that the lower acidity levels in the colon could provide an ideal location for bacteria to thrive, which would explain why results were better for the colon over the rectum.
It’s always best to talk to a GP about the best ways to reduce the risk of bowel cancer. Some people inherit a gene that puts them at risk, while changing lifestyle factors works best for others.
IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.