Using the Microbiome to Diagnose Colon Cancer

A fascinating study published in Microbial Ecology took a close look at the bacteria in the feces of 19 patients with colorectal cancer (CRC) and 20 healthy controls. They found remarkable differences between the two groups: fecal samples in people with CRC showed signs of an imbalanced microbiome, with higher levels of pathogens and lower levels of health promoting bacteria that produce beneficial fatty acids, suggesting that a “specific microbial signature of colorectal cancer may exist.”


Two additional studies, one published in Molecular Systems Biology and the other in Cancer Prevention, also looked at the viability of using gut bacteria as an early detection-screening tool for CRC. Although more research is needed to fully understand the bacterial profile in colorectal cancer, these studies suggest that using fecal samples to detect CRC may be the way of the very near future.


It also validates a simple but powerful strategy to reduce your risk: eat lots of plants to encourage the growth of health promoting microbes in your gut. For now, don’t forget to schedule your screening colonoscopy, especially if you’re at high risk, but be on the lookout for less invasive and more novel ways to screen for and detect CRC.


By: Dr. Robynne Chutkan