The Potential Role of Probiotics in Cancer Prevention and Treatment

Nutr Cancer. 2016 May-Jun;68(4):535-44. doi: 10.1080/01635581.2016.1158300. Epub 2016 May 4.


The human gut microbiota has a significant effect on many aspects of human physiology such as metabolism, nutrient absorption, and immune function. Imbalance of the microbiota has been implicated in many disorders including inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, asthma, psychiatric illnesses, and cancers. As a kind of functional foods, probiotics have been shown to play a protective role against cancer development in animal models. Clinical application of probiotics indicated that some probiotic strains could diminish the incidence of postoperative inflammation in cancer patients. Chemotherapy or radiotherapy-related diarrhea was relieved in patients who were administered oral probiotics. The present review summarizes the up-to-date studies on probiotic effects and the underlying mechanisms related to cancer. At present, it is commonly accepted that most commercial probiotic products are generally safe and can improve the health of the host. By modulating intestinal microbiota and immune response, some strains of probiotics can be used as an adjuvant for cancer prevention or/and treatment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • DNA Damage
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome
  • Humans
  • Intestines / pathology
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • Neoplasms / microbiology
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Neoplasms, Experimental / therapy
  • Probiotics / pharmacology
  • Probiotics / therapeutic use*