Did you know that there are bacterium living in literally every part of our body? The fact is that there are more bacterial cells in the human body than there are purely human cells!
Many people have the impression that all bacteria can make you sick. But not all bacteria are bad for you. If you have a fairly healthy immune system, most pathogenic bacterium are relatively harmless in small amounts. And research has confirmed that many forms of bacteria are absolutely beneficial for health– and even necessary for the proper function of many mechanisms of the body.
In addition, according to recent research conducted at the University of Connecticut, some bacteria may be helpful for preventing breast cancer as well.
Canadian Researchers May Have Found the Bacteria-Breast Cancer Link
A ground-breaking study published in summer of 2016 in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology took a look at bacterial levels and types of bacteria in women diagnosed with breast cancer as well as those who had healthy breasts.
The study team was from Western University in Ontario Canada and was led by Gregor Reid, PhD, Professor of Surgery, and Microbiology and Immunology. The team obtained breast tissue from close to 60 women in three categories:
1.) those undergoing mastectomies or lumpectomies,
2.) those who had benign tumors and
3.) healthy women those who had gone through breast reduction or enhancements. The researchers used DNA analysis to identify specific bacteria and find out exactly how these particular bacteria were effecting the breast area.
The researchers found that those with breast cancer had more “bad” bacteria in their system while those with healthy breasts had noticeably more “good” bacteria. Furthermore, the study results led the researchers to postulate that the kinds and levels of good bacteria found in healthy breasts may indicate chemo-protective properties.
The Bad Bacteria-Cancer Link
The women with breast cancer had high levels of Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus epidermidis. Escherichia coli is a gram-negative bacteria that is also a well-known “entero-toxigenic” substance. According to the US Centers for Disease Control, Escherichia coli (E. coli) is the leading cause of diarrheal disease in lower-income countries (especially in children) as well as the main cause of “Traveler’s disease.”
Staphylococcus epidermidis is a gram-positive bacteria that was at one time thought of as fairly benign. It is now considered one of the most common causes of nosocomial, or hospital-acquired, infections. Interestingly, this pathogen is also a frequent source of infection caused by “indwelling medical devices” like catheters, heart valves, and artificial joints. Breast implants are considered indwelling medical devices.
Both of these harmful bacterium are known to induce double-stranded breaks in DNA in healthy human DNA. According to the researchers:
“Double-strand breaks are the most detrimental type of DNA damage and are caused by geno-toxins, reactive oxygen species, and ionizing radiation.”
This process is known to lead to cancer.
Healthy Bacteria Can Help Prevent Cancer
The Canadian researchers also found that those with healthy breasts had higher levels of Lactobacillus and a specific form of Streptococcus.
These kinds of bacteria have long been considered beneficial and health-promoting for the body. Other studies have confirmed that these types have anti-carcinogenic properties.
For example, said the researchers, Streptococcus and other good bacteria can produce anti-oxidants in the body which have the ability to neutralize “reactive oxygen species” that can cause DNA damage and cancer.
According to the study report, “these findings may lead ultimately to the use of probiotics to protect women against breast cancer.”
Probiotics for Cancer Prevention and Overall Health
In a recent interview, Dr. Reid asks:
“Colleagues in Spain have shown that probiotic lactobacilli ingested by women can reach the mammary gland. Combined with our work, this raises the question, should women, especially those at risk for breast cancer, take probiotic lactobacilli to increase the proportion of beneficial bacteria in the breast?”
Many studies, including this one, are pointing to the answer as a resounding yes!
We all know that probiotics are good for the gut and overall health. That’s nothing new. The Western University findings, however, indicate that maintaining a good balance of certain kinds of healthy bacteria may help to prevent breast cancer more directly and that is truly incredible.