03/05/2014 08:16 am ET Updated Mar 05, 2014

What Gut Bacteria Might Have To Do With Colorectal Cancer Risk

While genetics likely play a role in some instances of colorectal cancer, a new study in mice suggests gut bacteria could also influence development of intestinal tumors.

Researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai found that giving antibiotics to mice to disrupt their microbial gut population led to the prevention of polyp formation (polyps are early tumors that can eventually become cancerous).

The findings suggest gut bacteria may have some sort of effect on the formation of tumors in the intestines.

Healthy cells turn cancerous because of gene mutations, but researchers noted that there are some instances of colorectal cancer that seem to only occur at certain parts of the intestine. Because of this, the researchers suspected that there could also be a non-genetic factor at play.

"In addition to genetic changes, various lifestyle-related factors, such as obesity and diet, have been linked to colorectal cancer. Some of these lifestyle factors appear to affect the types of bacteria present in the gut," study researcher Dr. Sergio Lira said in a statement. "Ultimately, understanding the interplay between genetic mutations, gut microbes and inflammation may lead to novel diagnostics and therapies for intestinal cancer."

The findings are published in The Journal of Experimental Medicine.

According to the Mayo Clinic, other known risk factors for colon cancer include older age, race, having an inflammatory intestinal condition, having a family history of colon cancer or polyps, consuming a diet high in fat and low in fiber, being obese, having diabetes, leading a sedentary lifestyle and consuming high amounts of alcohol.