Can Probiotics And Prebiotics Help Prevent Cancer?

The big C is something no one wants to have in their lives – ever. Yet, 1.6 million new cases will be diagnosed in America this year and about 595,690 will die from the cancer.1 Early detection through screening tests is being used as one line of defense as cancer digs its unwelcome talons into the lives of those around us. But the ideal solution is to prevent the incidence of cancer completely or, at least, lower our risk of developing it. Probiotics and prebiotics are being touted as one of the simple ways to get healthier and avoid the dreaded colorectal cancer as well as cancer of the prostate, and even breast cancer and ovarian cancer. But how effective is it?

Your Diet And Cancer

Besides age, smoking, physical inactivity, and obesity, another key factor that can influence your risk of developing cancer is diet. Consuming a lot of red meat and processed foods, cooking your meat at high temperatures (thereby creating carcinogenic chemicals), and not getting enough fruit and vegetables or whole grain are all linked to higher risk of cancer.2


How Probiotics and Prebiotics Can Help

In cases where the diet is high in processed foods and red meat, as is the case in many industrialized nations, the balance of the intestinal microflora is adversely affected. Normal bacterial species which usually have an advantage in competing with pathogenic bacteria are no longer able to inhibit this unfavorable growth. Consumption of probiotics through lactic cultures in dairy products and yogurt drinks, fermented vegetables (Korean kimchi or German sauerkraut), and fermented soybean (Japanese miso soup or Indonesian tempeh) can help restore this balance.3  4

Probiotics are living microorganisms that have a beneficial effect on the host and are being hailed for their role in protection against tumors. Specifically, findings in the area of colorectal cancer have been most encouraging.5 Prebiotics can help support the growth of “good bacteria” like probiotics. Foods that are prebiotic include fresh fruit like bananas, vegetables like onions and asparagus, whole grains, oatmeal, and garlic.


It is believed that these probiotics and prebiotics can help prevent the cancer from developing by inactivating carcinogenic compounds, competing with the pathogens microbiota, and altering microflora of the intestine. They also help improve your body’s overall immune response. Probiotics also regulate cell differentiation and apoptosis, preventing the proliferation of tumorous cells.6

The American Prostatitis Association recommends probiotics as a natural way to maintain good prostate health, especially for anyone who has had bacterial prostatitis. Antibiotic use to treat the prostate also does away with the good bacteria, something that probiotics can help rebalance. With one study showing a 30% higher risk of developing prostate cancer if you have had prostatitis, it is a good idea to try and keep the condition at bay.7 8


Although there may be no direct clinical evidence of the role of probiotics in cancer prevention, indirect evidence is available in abundance. As such, this remains an area under study. Consuming probiotics as part of your balanced healthy diet could help restore the balance of bacteria in your gut, which will have other health benefits too. As evidence emerges, you might find that this has also helped you with cancer prevention. They also have few downsides, so incorporating probiotic food in your diet can only be a good idea.