Influence of the Gut Microbiome, Diet, and Environment on Risk of Colorectal Cancer

Gastroenterology. 2020 Jan;158(2):322-340. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2019.06.048. Epub 2019 Oct 3.


Researchers have discovered associations between elements of the intestinal microbiome (including specific microbes, signaling pathways, and microbiota-related metabolites) and risk of colorectal cancer (CRC). However, it is unclear whether changes in the intestinal microbiome contribute to the development of sporadic CRC or result from it. Changes in the intestinal microbiome can mediate or modify the effects of environmental factors on risk of CRC. Factors that affect risk of CRC also affect the intestinal microbiome, including overweight and obesity; physical activity; and dietary intake of fiber, whole grains, and red and processed meat. These factors alter microbiome structure and function, along with the metabolic and immune pathways that mediate CRC development. We review epidemiologic and laboratory evidence for the influence of the microbiome, diet, and environmental factors on CRC incidence and outcomes. Based on these data, features of the intestinal microbiome might be used for CRC screening and modified for chemoprevention and treatment. Integrated prospective studies are urgently needed to investigate these strategies.

Keywords: Colitis; Dysbiosis; Fecal Microbiota Transplant; Infection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Colon / microbiology
  • Colon / pathology
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / etiology
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Early Detection of Cancer / methods
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Intestinal Mucosa / microbiology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / pathology
  • Mass Screening / methods
  • Risk Factors