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Scientists look to probiotic-rich dairy products including yogurt and milk to battle breast cancer in women


(NaturalNews) According to a new study published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, probiotic-rich dairy products, such as yogurt and milk, could cut the risk of breast cancer in women.

The researchers of the Lawson Health Research Institute in Ontario, Canada, found that certain bacteria in the breast of women have the potential to promote breast cancer, while others seem to have a protective effect.

Approximately one in eight U.S. women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point during their life. Dr. Gregor Reid, Professor of Surgery and Microbiology & Immunology, and his collaborators hope that these new findings may ultimately lead to preventative treatments based around probiotics.

Carcinogenic effect of bad bacteria

Previous studies have shown that breast tissue is not sterile but contains a diverse population of bacteria. This made the researchers wonder whether the host's local microbiome could be modulating the risk of breast cancer development.

For the study, Reid's Ph.D. student Camilla Urbaniak sampled breast tissue from 58 women who were undergoing lumpectomies or mastectomies for either benign (13 women) or cancerous (45 women) tumors, as well as from 23 healthy women who had undergone breast reductions or enhancements.

Next, the researchers used DNA-sequencing to identify the bacteria and cultured them to confirm that the organisms were still alive.

Dr. Reid and his team found that women with breast cancer had high levels of Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus epidermidis. According to the team, these bacteria are known to induce double-stranded breaks in the DNA of cultured human cells.

"Double-strand breaks are the most detrimental type of DNA damage and are caused by genotoxins, reactive oxygen species, and ionizing radiation," the investigators report.

They further note that the repair mechanism of these double-stranded breaks is highly error prone. These errors can lead to the development of cancer.

Protective effect of good bacteria

On the other hand, health-promoting Lactobacillus and Streptococcus were found in higher numbers in healthy breast tissues than in cancerous samples. According to the researchers, both groups of bacteria have shown anticarcinogenic properties.

They found that natural killer cells are critical in controlling the growth of tumors. Low levels of these cells have been linked with an increased occurrence of breast cancer. In addition, they report on the protective effect of Streptococcus thermophiles. These bacteria are known to produce antioxidants that neutralize reactive oxygen species, which can cause DNA damage that may eventually lead to cancer.

Probiotics may reduce breast cancer risk

While the main reason for the study was to find out if bacteria in human breast milk play a role in lowering the risk of cancer, Dr. Reid said that lactation might not be necessary to improve the bacterial flora of the breasts.

"Colleagues in Spain have shown that probiotic lactobacilli ingested by women can reach the mammary gland," said Reid.

"Combined with our work, this raises the question, should women, especially those at risk for breast cancer, take probiotic lactobacilli to increase the proportion of beneficial bacteria in the breast? To date, researchers have not even considered such questions, and indeed some have balked at there being any link between bacteria and breast cancer or health."

Dr. Reid's team believes that increasing the good bacteria, at the expense of the harmful ones, through the use of probiotics may be crucial to reduce breast cancer prevalence. Next to probiotics, Dr. Reid said antibiotics that target bacteria that abet cancer might be another option for improving breast cancer management.

While more research is needed to explore the possibilities, Dr. Reid said that there is definitely something that keeps bacteria in check on and in the breasts, as it does throughout the rest of the body.

"What if that something was other bacteria--in conjunction with the host immune system? We haven't answered this question, but it behooves experts in the field to now consider the potential."

Sources for this article include:

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