The huge communities of residential microbes, including bacteria, viruses, Archaea, and Eukaryotes, that colonize humans are increasingly recognized as playing important roles in health and disease. A complex populous ecosystem, the human gastrointestinal (GI) tract harbors up to 10(11) bacterial cells per gram of luminal content, whose collective genome, the gut metagenome, contains a vastly greater number of individual genes than the human genome. In health, the function of the microbiome might be considered to be in dynamic equilibrium with the host, exerting both local and distant effects. However, 'disequilibrium' may contribute to the emergence of disease, including malignancy. In this review, we discuss how the intestinal bacterial microbiome and in particular how an 'estrobolome,' the aggregate of enteric bacterial genes capable of metabolizing estrogens, might affect women's risk of developing postmenopausal estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer. Estrobolome composition is impacted by factors that modulate its functional activity. Exploring variations in the composition and activities of the estrobolome in healthy individuals and in women with estrogen-driven breast cancer may lead to development of microbiome-based biomarkers and future targeted interventions to attenuate cancer risk.
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