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April 28, 2014 by MAE CHAN
Study Links The Imbalance of Microorganisms In The Body To Breast Cancer

The microbiota could play a significant role in the development of breast cancer, according to new research.

Breast cancer affects one in eight women in their lifetime. Though diet, age and genetic predisposition are established risk factors, the majority of breast cancers have unknown etiology according to conventional science. Although findings from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) have found that CT (computed tomography) scans are a major cause of the breast cancer they are supposed to detect

The human microbiota refers to the collection of microbes inhabiting the human body. Imbalance in microbial communities, or microbial dysbiosis, has been implicated in various human diseases including obesity, diabetes, and colon cancer.

After comparing breast tumour tissue and normal tissue from the same patient, the researchers found that the bacterium Methylobacterium radiotolerans was relatively enriched in tumour tissue, while the bacterium Sphingomonas yanoikuyae was relatively enriched in paired normal tissue. The results suggested there had been a microbial dysbiosis, or imbalance, within the tumour tissue.

The Californian researchers said the dramatic reduction in bacterial load found in breast tumour tissue compared to healthy breast tissue implied that bacterial load may be used along with current methods to monitor the progression of breast cancer and to help stage the disease.

"Furthermore, it is tempting to speculate that a decrease in bacterial load in a healthy individual may be a signal of heightened breast cancer risk," they wrote.

The study follows previous research suggesting a link between microbiota imbalance and various human diseases including obesity, diabetes and colon cancer. Human microbiota are microbes residing on and in the skin, in saliva, oral mucosa, conjunctiva and gastrointestinal tracts, sometimes dubbed 'friendly bacteria'.

Maintaining health levels

The study's quantitative survey of breast microbiota found that the amount of bacteria was not significantly different in paired normal tissue of breast cancer patients and healthy individuals. However, compared to both of these healthy tissues, breast tumour tissue had significantly reduced amounts of bacteria.

The researchers said this coincided with the, "reduced expression of one-third of antibacterial response genes surveyed".

"Taken together, these data suggest that bacteria may have a role in maintaining healthy breast tissue through stimulation of host inflammatory responses," the researchers wrote.


Mae Chan holds degrees in both physiology and nutritional sciences. She is also blogger and and technology enthusiast with a passion for disseminating information about health.

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