Diet Affects The Breast Microbiome In Mammals

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Diet influences the composition of microbial populations in the mammary glands of nonhuman primates, researchers report October 2 in the journal Cell Reports. Specifically, a Mediterranean diet increased the abundance of probiotic bacteria previously shown to inhibit tumor growth in animals.

Diet has been extensively studied as a lifestyle factor that could influence breast cancer development. Breast cancer risk in women is increased by consumption of a high-fat Western diet full of sweets and processed foods but reduced by a healthy Mediterranean diet consisting of vegetables, fish, and olive oil. Intriguingly, a recent study in humans revealed that malignant breast tumors have a lower abundance of Lactobacillus bacteria compared to benign lesions, suggesting that microbial imbalances could contribute to breast cancer.

To address this question, Shively and Cook used macaque monkeys because the animals mimic human breast biology and have been used to study breast cancer risk. One advantage over human studies is that the food intake of the monkeys can be carefully controlled for a prolonged period of time, increasing the chance of observing the profound effects of diet.

Taken together, these results suggest that diet directly influences microbiome populations outside of the intestinal tract and could impact mammary gland health. But for now, it is not clear what impact these microbes or microbial-modified metabolites have on breast cancer risk.

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