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Doctors studying colon bacteria's connection to breast cancer

Right after she was diagnosed with breast cancer, Ann Davis took time for a quick colon study. The study focuses on microbes in the intestinal system and how they may impact the risk of breast cancer. "There may be bacteria that are harmful in patients with breast cancer, or there may be bacteria that could be beneficial or protective for those people who don't get breast cancer," says Dr. Ece Mutlu.

Specifically, Doctor Mutlu wants to learn how those bacteria may metabolize estrogen, a known 'fuel' for breast cancer. "The body circulates female hormones, doesn't completely get rid of them. So the bacteria may have something to do with estrogen," says Dr. Mutlu.

As infants, we acquire most of our intestinal bacteria from our mothers, adding a new layer to the question of 'inherited risk.' "They could be transmitting these bacteria and the bacterial genes and metabolic capacity of the bacteria to their daughters, which may impact breast cancer risk," says Dr. Mutlu.

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