Prospective study of oral microbiome and colorectal cancer risk in low-income and African American populations

Int J Cancer. 2019 May 15;144(10):2381-2389. doi: 10.1002/ijc.31941. Epub 2018 Dec 11.


Oral microbiome may play an important role in cancer pathogenesis. However, no study has prospectively investigated the association of the oral microbiome with subsequent risk of developing colorectal cancer (CRC). We conducted a nested case-control study including 231 incident CRC cases and 462 controls within the Southern Community Cohort Study with 75% of the subjects being African-Americans. The controls were individually matched to cases based on age, ethnic group, smoking, season-of-study enrollment and recruitment method. Oral microbiota were assessed using 16S rRNA gene sequencing in pre-diagnostic mouth rinse samples. Multiple bacterial taxa showed an association with CRC risk at p <0.05. Oral pathogens Treponema denticola and Prevotella intermedia were associated with an increased risk of CRC, with odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) of 1.76(1.19-2.60) and 1.55(1.08-2.22), respectively, for the individuals carrying these bacteria compared to non-carriers. In the phylum Actinobacteria, Bifidobacteriaceae was more abundant among CRC patients than among controls. In the phylum Bacteroidetes, Prevotella denticola and Prevotella sp. oral taxon 300 were associated with an increased CRC risk, while Prevotella melaninogenica was associated with a decreased risk of CRC. In the phylum Firmicutes, Carnobacteriaceae, Streptococcaceae, Erysipelotrichaceae, Streptococcus, Solobacterium, Streptococcus sp. oral taxon 058 and Solobacterium moorei showed associations with a decreased risk of CRC. Most of these associations were observed among both African- and European-Americans. Most of the associations were not significant after Bonferroni correction for multiple testing, which may be conservative. Our study suggests that the oral microbiome may play a significant role in CRC etiology.

Keywords: 16S rRNA; colorectal cancer; oral microbiome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Black or African American
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / microbiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Microbiota / genetics
  • Middle Aged
  • Mouth / microbiology*
  • Poverty
  • Prospective Studies
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • Risk Factors


  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S