Posted by: Dena Schmidt, staff writer
Can probiotics really reduce the risk of breast cancer? The answer may surprise you.
Everyone seems to be talking about the benefits of probiotics these days, and with good reason. They have been linked with health effects like improved digestive and urinary function, a stronger immune system, the healing of IBS and other inflammatory bowel issues plus so much more.
Reduce your risk of breast cancer by improving the health of breast tissue
Dr. Gregor Reid and collaborators found that specific harmful bacteria were present within the breasts of women afflicted with breast cancer. In contrast, beneficial bacteria were found in abundance within healthy breast tissue. The study results were published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology in collaboration with the American Society for Microbiology.
Researchers now believe that beneficial bacteria in the breasts can actually help protect women from cancer. This means that taking probiotics could be a beneficial preventative practice for women against the disease.
The study looked at breast tissue from 58 women undergoing mastectomies or lumpectomies for either cancerous (45 women) or benign (13 women) tumors. An additional 23 healthy women who’d had breast enhancement or reduction surgery were also studied.
The benefits of probiotics work at the DNA level of cells
Culturing and DNA sequencing was used to identify the bacteria within the tissues. The women with breast cancer were found to have elevated levels of staph and E coli bacteria, which are known to cause harmful double-strand breaks in the DNA. The cells’ repair mechanism for this kind of break is very difficult and prone to error. Because of this, cancer very often develops.
By comparison, Streptococcus and Lactobacillus bacteria are found in the breasts of the women who are cancer-free. These bacteria are considered health-promoting and are known to have anticarcinogenic properties. Natural killer cells in the immune system control tumor growth, so a low level of them is associated with a higher likelihood of cancer. Streptococcus thermophilus produces antioxidants that reduce DNA damage.
Beneficial bacteria crucial to immune system health
The idea for this type of research came from an awareness of the fact that lower incidents of breast cancer is linked with women who are breastfeeding. Human milk contains an abundance of beneficial bacteria, so the researchers speculated that increasing these levels could play a role in reducing cancer risk.
But, keep in mind, lactation is likely not necessary to improve bacterial flora in the breasts. Spanish researchers have found that the probiotic lactobacilli reaches the mammary gland when ingested. In fact, probiotics are well known for their ability to increase beneficial bacteria and reduce the presence of harmful strains.
Naturally, more research will help to determine how specific probiotics could be used to fight or prevent breast cancer. But, for now, be sure to eat some probiotic-rich foods like, sauerkraut, miso soup or tempeh – every day.