Study: Microbes may be linked to breast cancer

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A study published by Scientific Reports has found differences in bacteria in human breast ductal fluid in women who have experienced breast cancer and the bacteria present in those who have not.

Lead by Susan Love, MD, MBA, chief visionary officer of Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation, this study is the first of its kind in analyzing the link between the breast ductal fluid microbiome and breast cancer. Its findings may mean further research into the impact of microbes in breast cancer.

"We don't yet know nearly enough about healthy and cancerous breasts neither the microbial landscape nor the anatomy of the breast duct system," Dr. Love said.  "Yet, all breast cancer begins in the ducts, so clearly exploration is critical to discovering what causes breast cancer and how we can eradicate the disease."

Researchers were able to extract fluid through suction on the nipple which was then analyzed via next-generation genomic sequencing. Results found that the microbiome in breast ductal fluid differed significantly between two groups, 23 healthy women and 25 women who had a history of breast cancer.

Even though further research is needed in the study of microbes related to cancer, the results were still in the range with other recent research studies that suggest microbes contribute to 16 percent or more of malignancies worldwide.

"We have known for decades that our immune cells and the cells that line our organs' surfaces can react to microbial components," Lee said. "These responses can trigger inflammation and immune responses, suggesting that this interaction might help the immune system monitor breast tissue for cancer, or that certain microbes could contribute to increased inflammation that leads to cancer development. There is still so much to explore."