The Breast Has Its Own Microbiome–and the Mix of Bacteria Could Prevent or Encourage Cancer
If certain bacteria do instigate cancer, the finding could lead to new screening methods or treatments
The gut microbiome has stolen the show when it comes to the recent explosion of research on the bacteria that thrive within us. But bacteria also live in a woman’s breast tissue—and the mix of those microbes may have an equally important effect on health, according to a new study in Applied and Environmental Microbiology. The results “suggest that microbes in the breast, even in low amounts, may be playing a role in breast cancer—increasing the risk in some cases and decreasing the risk in other cases,” says Gregor Reid, a professor of microbiology and immunology at Western University in Ontario and the study’s senior author.
One in eight women in the U.S. are diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetimes, but its origins remain unknown in most cases. Age, genetic predisposition and environmental changes are often implicated—and according to a growing body of research, bacteria may be one of those environmental factors. For instance, as early as the 1960s a number of studies have found that breast-feeding is associated with a lower risk of breast cancer, and more recent work suggests that this may be because breast milk supports the growth of beneficial microorganisms.
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