The microorganisms that live symbiotically in human beings are increasingly recognized as important players in health and disease. The largest collection of these microorganisms is found in the gastrointestinal tract. Microbial composition reflects both genetic and lifestyle variables of the host. This microbiota is in a dynamic balance with the host, exerting local and distant effects. Microbial perturbation (dysbiosis) could contribute to the risk of developing health problems. Various bacterial genes capable of producing estrogen-metabolizing enzymes have been identified. Accordingly, gut microbiota is capable of modulating estrogen serum levels. Conversely, estrogen-like compounds may promote the proliferation of certain species of bacteria. Therefore, a crosstalk between microbiota and both endogenous hormones and estrogen-like compounds might synergize to provide protection from disease but also to increase the risk of developing hormone-related diseases. Recent research suggests that the microbiota of women with breast cancer differs from that of healthy women, indicating that certain bacteria may be associated with cancer development and with different responses to therapy. In this review, we discuss recent knowledge about the microbiome and breast cancer, identifying specific characteristics of the human microbiome that may serve to develop novel approaches for risk assessment, prevention and treatment for this disease.
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