The microbiome and breast cancer: a review

Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2019 Dec;178(3):493-496. doi: 10.1007/s10549-019-05407-5. Epub 2019 Aug 27.


The human microbiome plays an integral role in physiology, with most microbes considered benign or beneficial. However, some microbes are known to be detrimental to human health, including organisms linked to cancers and other diseases characterized by aberrant inflammation. Dysbiosis, a state of microbial imbalance with harmful bacteria species outcompeting benign bacteria, can lead to maladies including cancer. The microbial composition varies across body sites, with the gut, urogenital, and skin microbiomes particularly well characterized. However, the microbiome associated with normal breast tissue and breast diseases is poorly understood. Collectively, studies have shown that breast tissue has a distinct microbiome with particular species enriched in the breast tissue itself, as well as the nipple aspirate and gut bacteria of women with breast cancer. More importantly, the breast and associated microbiomes may modulate therapeutic response and serve as potential biomarkers for diagnosing and staging breast cancer.

Keywords: Breast cancer; Flora; Gut; Immune response; Microbiome.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / classification
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Breast / microbiology*
  • Breast / pathology
  • Breast Diseases / immunology
  • Breast Diseases / microbiology
  • Breast Diseases / pathology
  • Breast Diseases / therapy
  • Breast Neoplasms / immunology
  • Breast Neoplasms / microbiology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy
  • Dysbiosis / microbiology
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome
  • Humans
  • Microbiota*
  • Skin / microbiology