Causal relationship between gut microbiota and cancers: a two-sample Mendelian randomisation study

BMC Med. 2023 Feb 21;21(1):66. doi: 10.1186/s12916-023-02761-6.


Background: Evidence from observational studies and clinical trials suggests that the gut microbiota is associated with cancer. However, the causal association between gut microbiota and cancer remains to be determined.

Methods: We first identified two sets of gut microbiota based on phylum, class, order, family, and genus level information, and cancer data were obtained from the IEU Open GWAS project. We then performed two-sample Mendelian randomisation (MR) to determine whether the gut microbiota is causally associated with eight cancer types. Furthermore, we performed a bi-directional MR analysis to examine the direction of the causal relations.

Results: We identified 11 causal relationships between genetic liability in the gut microbiome and cancer, including those involving the genus Bifidobacterium. We found 17 strong associations between genetic liability in the gut microbiome and cancer. Moreover, we found 24 associations between genetic liability in the gut microbiome and cancer using multiple datasets.

Conclusions: Our MR analysis revealed that the gut microbiota was causally associated with cancers and may be useful in providing new insights for further mechanistic and clinical studies of microbiota-mediated cancer.

Keywords: Cancer; Genetics; Gut microbiota; Mendelian randomisation; SNPs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Causality
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Humans
  • Mendelian Randomization Analysis
  • Microbiota*
  • Neoplasms*
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Risk Factors