Women’s Microbiomes May Give Cancer Warning

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Microbiome word cloud on a white background.

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A woman’s microbiome may signal if cancer is lurking in her body, a small new study suggests.

In the study, researchers at the Mayo Clinic looked at the microbes found in women’s reproductive tracts and found that women with one type of uterine cancer had different microbes than women without this cancer.

The cancer, called endometrial cancer, is the most common type of gynecological cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. But little is known about what causes it, the researchers wrote in the study, which was published Thursday (Jan. 5) in the journal Genome Medicine.

The microbiome is the community of microorganisms that live in and on human bodies. In previous studies, researchers have linked people’s microbiomes to other types of cancer, the new study said. For example, there is a well-established link between the bacteria known as Helicobacter pylori and stomach cancer, the researchers wrote.

One limitation of the study was its small size, the researchers said, adding that they hope to do additional studies that include more women of different ethnicities.

If the findings hold up, they may help scientists develop tests using the microbiome to screen women for uterine cancer, the researchers wrote. In addition, the findings could help researchers find a way to prevent uterine cancer by modifying the microbes found in the reproductive tract, lead study author Marina Walther-António, an assistant professor of surgery at the Mayo Clinic, said in a statement.

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