Gut dysbiosis: a potential link between increased cancer risk in ageing and inflammaging

Lancet Oncol. 2018 Jun;19(6):e295-e304. doi: 10.1016/S1470-2045(18)30095-0. Epub 2018 Jun 1.


Cancer incidence substantially increases with ageing in both men and women, although the reason for this increase is unknown. In this Series paper, we propose that age-associated changes in gut commensal microbes, otherwise known as the microbiota, facilitate cancer development and growth by compromising immune fitness. Ageing is associated with a reduction in the beneficial commensal microbes, which control the expansion of pathogenic commensals and maintain the integrity of the intestinal barrier through the production of mucus and lipid metabolites, such as short-chain fatty acids. Expansion of gut dysbiosis and leakage of microbial products contributes to the chronic proinflammatory state (inflammaging), which negatively affects the immune system and impairs the removal of mutant and senescent cells, thereby enabling tumour outgrowth. Studies in animal models and the importance of commensals in cancer immunotherapy suggest that this status can be reversible. Thus, interventions that alter the composition of the gut microbiota might reduce inflammaging and rejuvenate immune functions to provide anticancer benefits in frail elderly people.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging* / immunology
  • Animals
  • Dysbiosis
  • Female
  • Frail Elderly
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome* / immunology
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • Humans
  • Immunocompromised Host
  • Incidence
  • Inflammation / epidemiology
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Inflammation / microbiology*
  • Inflammation Mediators / immunology
  • Intestines / immunology
  • Intestines / microbiology*
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • Neoplasms / microbiology*
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors


  • Inflammation Mediators