New Research Says Your 'Breast Microbiome' Plays A Big Role In Cancer

New Research Says Your 'Breast Microbiome' Plays A Big Role In Cancer Hero Image
Photo: Yoann Boyer

Ever feel like health news is too overwhelming, fast-paced, or hard to decipher? Us too. Here, we filter through the latest in integrative health, wellness trends, and nutrition advice, reporting on the most exciting and meaningful breakthroughs. We’ll tell you exactly what you need to know—and how it might help you become a healthier and happier human.

Here at mbg, we've been talking about the microbiome—and the hugely important role that healthy bacteria play in our health—for years. It's amazing to see probiotics and prebiotics become commonplace (with their own section at CVS!) and watch conventional medicine finally start to jump on board. So what's next in the world of the microbiome? A new study, published in the journal Oncotarget, found that healthy breast tissue contains more of a specific bacterial species (called Methylobacterium) than breast tissue of women with diagnosed breast cancer.

For this study, researchers at the Cleveland Clinic examined the tissue of 78 women who either had a mastectomy or who had elective cosmetic surgery. They also examined the mouth and urine of the participants to better understand the bacterial composition in other distant areas of the body. They found that the women with cancer had increased levels of Staphylococcus and Actinomyces in their urine and lower levels of Methylobacterium in their breast tissues.

Scientists have long suspected that the breasts have their own unique microbiome, but this is the first time breast cancer has been linked to a decrease in bacterial diversity. This study took the first step in this totally new direction of cancer research by showing that healthy breast tissue has a different bacterial composition than cancerous tissue. They hope this will help them find a way to detect the disease earlier and diagnose it more efficiently.

This study suggests that there are certain bacteria that prevent cancer and certain bacteria that seem to be "pro-cancer." The future of cancer prevention and treatment could have a lot to do with targeting these bacteria and creating an environment in the body that promotes healthy bacteria. One of the authors of the study, Charis Eng, M.D., Ph.D.—chair of Cleveland Clinic's Genomic Medicine Institute and director of the Center for Personalized Genetic Healthcare—said "In our wildest dreams, we hope we can use microbiomics right before breast cancer forms and then prevent cancer with probiotics or antibiotics." And that deserves one big "wow."

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