The wrong bacteria are dangerous for breast health and Lactobacilli may help protect breast tissue

July 19, 2016


The wrong bacteria are dangerous for breast health and Lactobacilli may help protect breast tissue

Recent research from Spain indicates that over 700 different bacterial species live in the milk ducts of a woman’s breasts. The bacteria living in us and on us are referred to as the microbiome; there are pounds of them numbering possibly in the hundreds of trillions. Over 100,000 years these bacteria have evolved into health promoting bacteria or into inflammation causing bacteria. Taking a supplement of bacteria to support the good ones is called a probiotic.

Spanish research also shows that when a woman swallows a probiotic bacteria containing some Lactobacillus strains that these eventually work their way into her milk ducts and research shows that these can support breast health and may help lower inflammation in the milk ducts. This is important because in many ways these bacteria are showing that they are protective. In the United States, 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. Along with genetics, the environment also contributes to its development.

In a study from Lawson Health Research Institute and Western University, and the London Regional Cancer Program, all in Canada, along with Cork Cancer Research Centre, at University College Cork in  Ireland it was found that the bacteria that dominated in milk ducts in women with breast cancer had a marked difference than that found in the breasts of healthy women. The researchers obtained breast tissues 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.

Women with breast cancer had higher relative abundances of Bacillus, Enterobacteriaceae and Staphylococcus. Escherichia coli (member of the Enterobacteriaceae family) and Staphylococcus epidermidis. These bacteria can trigger inflammation. The inflammation in turn can damage the DNA in chromosomes of cells lining the milk ducts; the ability to cause this damage was demonstrated in vitro (in a dish). These breaks are hard to repair because they are double stranded DNA breaks. When the cells split and create two new cells the damage can be copied into the DNA of the new cells. If enough errors are copied it can contribute to the development of breast cancer. Lactic acid producing bacteria such as Lactobacillus strains were fewer in number as well. These bacteria are known for beneficial health effects including having cancer preventing properties. The study appears in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.