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Colon Cancer’s Newest Culprit: Gut Bacteria

Add one more to the list of tumor-causing bad guys in the colon.

In some ways, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the teeming population of bacteria living in the intestinal tract have something to do with colon cancer. After all, there are trillions of them making their home all along the colon, so it’s only natural that some, as in any population of living organisms, are helpful to digestion while others go rogue and turn cells cancerous.

Since research on this invisible world of microorganisms that live within us — called the microbiome — emerged over the past decade, scientists have known that patients with colon cancer harbor different microbial communities in their digestive tract than those without the disease. But did the changing bacterial populations trigger the cancer, or were the shifts caused by the malignant growths, which attracted a more cancer-friendly community of bugs?

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