Fatty diets alter intestinal bacteria, raising cancer risk, studies suggest.
Research has revealed that high fat diets can change the diverse make-up of bacteria that live in the digestive tract.
These bacteria have a fundamental link to the body's immune system and the changes caused by high fat diets can reduce defences against bowel cancer.
The study was carried out on non-obese mice with a mutant version of the Kras gene, which is associated with human bowel cancer.
Treatment to wipe out certain bacteria while encouraging the growth of other "friendly" microbes helped to slow down tumour development.
Giving antibiotics to mice suffering from bowel cancer was found to be an effective way of slowing cancer progression.
The use of butyrate, a fatty acid produced in the gut by the fermenting action of "friendly" bacteria, had a similar effect.
These discoveries both have serious implications as butyrate is already a widely available bowel-aiding diet supplement, and antibiotics are similarly widespread in their use.
The same discovery also revealed that bowel cancer could be effectively transmitted via faecal samples containing populations of bad digestive bacteria.
The findings were reported in the journal 'Nature' by a team led by Dr Melek Arkan, from the Technical University Munich in Germany.
Copyright Press Association 2014