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The Microbiome & Colorectal Cancer

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Is it possible that dysbiosis can lead to colon cancer? Turns out, it can. A growing body of research is linking the imbalance of bacteria in the gut to the development of certain gastrointestinal cancers. It’s already established as fact that chronic H. pylori infection can cause gastric cancer, or cancer of the stomach, which caused scientists to wonder if the overabundance of other bacteria can lead to cancer.

Importance of Whole Genome Sequencing

With the development of highly sensitive technology called whole genome sequencing which allows us to identify billions of different microbes in the gut, we are now able to see an extremely detailed inside view of the extraordinarily diverse ecosystem that lives inside of us. This also allows for more accurate study of what can cause different gastrointestinal disorders. By comparing the microbiomes of healthy adults with those of colorectal cancer patients in a study published in 2013, scientists were able to learn which bacterial species were higher in healthy adults, giving insight into ways we can potentially drive our microbiomes towards protecting against colorectal cancer.

One specific probiotic species, Akkermansia muciniphila, was found to be 4 times the abundance in the healthy adults than in the colorectal cancer patients. In a study done in 2011, scientists found that a group of unfavorable bacteria called Prevotella was in higher abundance in the stool samples of colon cancer patients compared to their cancer-free counterparts. They also found a lower abundance of the probiotic Bifidobacterium longum in the patients with cancer than healthy adults.

While these scientists agree that it is still too early to draw conclusions from this growing body of research about what directly causes colorectal cancer, studies like this can help us learn more about how to help prevent and even possibly treat colorectal cancer.

 

Weir, T. L. et al. Stool microbiome and metabolome differences between colorectal cancer patients and healthy adultsPLoS ONE 8, e70803 (2013) Read the Research Paper

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