Men who have two portions of yoghurt a week could cut the risk of precancerous growths by a fifth, a study suggests.
Research by the University of Washington found those eating plenty of it had a significantly lower chance of developing adenoma which can lead to bowel cancer.
The study, published in Gut, which tracked more than 32,000 men for 25 years, found that those consuming at least two portions of yoghurt a week had 19 per cent fewer growths - and 26 per cent fewer of the most high-risk type.
The study was observational, and could not demonstrate why the foodstuff might have such an impact.
But scientists said that Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus, two bacteria commonly found in live yogurt, may lower the number of cancer causing chemicals in the gut.
The anti-inflammatory properties might also reduce gut leakiness, which could also protect against disease, they said. The study tracked a total of 32,606 men and 55,743 women, all of whom had a lower bowel endoscopy, which enables medics to view the inside of their gut.
Every four years they provided detailed information on lifestyle and diet - including how much yoghurt they ate. During the study period, 5,811 pre-cancerous growths developed in the men, and 8,116 in the women.
While men who ate yoghurt had a far lower risk of developing the growths, called adenoma, no association was seen in women.
Katie Patrick, health information officer, from Cancer Research UK, said: “The colon is home to trillions of microbes and how the bacteria in our gut might affect bowel cancer risk is a fascinating area of research. Lots of things affect the types of bugs in our gut and our overall gut health, including the foods we eat.
“But men don’t need to fill their shopping trolleys with yoghurt because it’s too early to say from this study whether eating more yoghurt could reduce the risk of bowel cancer. However, there is good evidence that you can reduce your risk by eating more foods high in fibre, like wholegrain bread or brown rice, and cutting down on processed and red meat.”
Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK, with almost 42,000 diagnoses annually.