This article is part of the supplement: Selected articles from the XXV National Congress of the Italian Society of Geriatric Surgery

Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Potential role of probiotics on colorectal cancer prevention

Mario Uccello1, Giulia Malaguarnera2, Francesco Basile3, Velia D’agata4, Michele Malaguarnera2*, Gaetano Bertino5, Marco Vacante1, Filippo Drago2 and Antonio Biondi3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Senescence, Urological and Neurological Sciences, Cannizzaro Hospital Via Messina 829, 95125, University of Catania, Italy

2 International PhD programme in Neuropharmacology, University of Catania, Italy

3 Department of General Surgery, Section of General Surgery and Oncology, Vittorio Emanuele Hospital, Via Plebiscito 628 University of Catania, 95123 Catania, Italy

4 Department of Biomedical Sciences, Via S. Sofia, 87, 95123, University of Catania, Italy. University of Catania, Italy

5 Department of Medical and Pediatric Sciences Via S. Sofia, 87, 95123, University of Catania, Italy

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BMC Surgery 2012, 12(Suppl 1):S35  doi:10.1186/1471-2482-12-S1-S35

Published: 15 November 2012



Colorectal cancer represents the most common malignancy of the gastrointestinal tract. Owing to differences in dietary habits and lifestyle, this neoplasm is more common in industrialized countries than in developing ones. Evidence from a wide range of sources supports the assumption that the link between diet and colorectal cancer may be due to an imbalance of the intestinal microflora.


Probiotic bacteria are live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a healthy benefit on the host, and they have been investigated for their protective anti-tumor effects. In vivo and molecular studies have displayed encouraging findings that support a role of probiotics in colorectal cancer prevention.


Several mechanisms could explain the preventive action of probiotics against colorectal cancer onset. They include: alteration of the intestinal microflora; inactivation of cancerogenic compounds; competition with putrefactive and pathogenic microbiota; improvement of the host’s immune response; anti-proliferative effects via regulation of apoptosis and cell differentiation; fermentation of undigested food; inhibition of tyrosine kinase signaling pathways.