Your breast bacteria could set you up for cancer

You already know how important it is to maintain the healthy bacteria in your gut. But your microbiome (the collection of bacteria, fungi and viruses in your body) extends far beyond your belly…

It’s in your mouth, on your skin and even in your breast tissue. If your microbiome gets out of balance in any part of your body it can set you up for disease. And in the case of your breast microbiome, it may mean a higher risk of breast cancer.

In fact, a recent study found that people with malignant breast tumors tend to have less Lactobacillus bacteria in their breasts, which means it may play a role in tumor prevention.

That theory is supported by previous research which found that Lactobacillusa friendly bacteriawas much more plentiful in healthy, cancer-free breasts than in cancerous ones.

This same study even found that the breast tissue of women with breast cancer contained elevated levels of Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus epidermidis— two types of harmful bacteria that have been found to cause DNA damage that can lead to, you guessed it… cancer development.

The question is… how do you get more of the friendly beneficial bacteria in your breasts?

And here’s the answer…

A Mediterranean diet for your breast bacteria

Researchers from Wake Forest School of Medicine recently found that diet makes a big difference in your breast microbiome.

They performed a study on macaque monkeys, because their breasts are like human breasts. Some of the monkeys ate a Western diet for 31 months, and the other monkeys ate a Mediterranean diet for 31 months. The Mediterranean dieters ended up far better off when it came to breast bacteria.

They had 10 times more Lactobacillus bacteria in their breasts. Like I mentioned earlier, people with cancerous breast tumors tend to have less Lactobacillus in their breasts. Plus, research shows this bacteria can decrease tumor growth in animals with breast cancer.

Time to go Mediterranean!

So, if you want a healthy breast microbiome, it’s time to go Mediterranean. That includes eating:

  • Lots of plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts
  • Plenty of healthy fats like olive oil
  • Herbs and spices in abundance
  • Red meat in moderation (maybe only a few times per month)
  • Fish and poultry more often (at least twice a week)
  • Red wine on occasion

Researchers say that probiotics and fish oil supplements could also have a beneficial effect on your breast microbiome, too.

So, give those a try too. Just make sure any probiotic supplement you choose contains plenty of those Lactobacillus strains that support cancer-free breasts.

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Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine,, and