Your microbiome: Are you a health professional? - CancerChoices

Your Microbiome

Over thousands of years, our bodies have developed a symbiotic relationship with organisms living in and on our bodies, generally supporting each other’s health and well-being. Research links your microbiome—and changes in it—to several types of cancer and how well you respond to some conventional cancer treatments.

Are you a health professional?

Microbes: summary of effects

We created a spreadsheet of many phyla, classes, and species of bacteria and some of their effects on health and metabolism. We find it helpful in interpreting studies that we review, and we share it for those who are interested:

Click or tap the image to open the chart

Modes of action

Acetate is the principal short chain fatty acid in the colon, and after absorption it has been shown to increase cholesterol synthesis. However, propionate, a gluconeogenerator, has been shown to inhibit cholesterol synthesis. Therefore, substrates that can decrease the acetate: propionate ratio may reduce serum lipids and possibly cardiovascular disease risk. Butyrate has been studied for its role in nourishing the colonic mucosa and in the prevention of cancer of the colon.1Wong JM, de Souza R, Kendall CW, Emam A, Jenkins DJ. Colonic health: fermentation and short chain fatty acids. Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology. 2006 Mar;40(3):235-43.

Preclinical evidence

Notable preclinical evidence is presented here; clinical evidence is summarized in Why is your microbiome important? ›

Improving treatment outcomes

Breast cancer

Higher frequency and pro-fibrogenicity of mast cells in normal, non-tumor-bearing mammary tissues from dysbiotic animals compared to other animals in a preclinical study, plus a positive correlation between enhanced collagen levels in tumor-adjacent mammary tissue samples and mast cell abundance and cancer recurrence among people with HR+ breast cancer2Feng TY, Azar FN et al. Reciprocal interactions between the gut microbiome and mammary tissue mast cells promote metastatic dissemination of HR+ breast tumors. Cancer Immunology Research. 2022 Aug 30:CIR-21-1120.

Pancreatic cancer 

Altering the pancreatic microbiome, such as through ablation, can slow disease progression in mice.3Castellino AM. Pancreatic microbiome influences cancer and its treatment. Medscape. March 23, 2018. Viewed April 15, 2018; Pushalkar S, Hundeyin M et al. The pancreatic cancer microbiome promotes oncogenesis by induction of innate and adaptive immune suppression. Cancer Discovery. 2018 Apr;8(4):403-416.

Managing side effects


Gut microbiota play a prominent role in cancer cachexia in preclinical studiestesting a drug, a procedure, or another medical treatment in isolated cells or in animals; preclinical evidence is considered only an initial indication of possible effects in people.4Ziemons J, Smidt ML, Damink SO, Rensen SS. Gut microbiota and metabolic aspects of cancer cachexia. Best Practice & Research Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. 2021 May;35(3):101508.

Liver regeneration

Improved phospholipid biosynthesis, hepatocyte proliferation, liver regeneration and survival after partial hepatectomy in gnotobiotic mice colonized with a minimal SCFA-producing microbial community compared to controls5Yin Y, Sichler A et al. Gut microbiota promote liver regeneration through hepatic membrane phospholipid biosynthesis. Journal of Hepatology. 2023 Jan 18:S0168-8278(23)00009-0.

Helpful links for professionals

With gratitude to Julie M. Deleemans, MSc, PhD, for her contributions

Conventional treatment interactions with the microbiome

Cancer-specific resources

Managing side effects of cancer treatments

General resources on the microbiome


Laura Pole, MSN, RN, OCNS

Senior Clinical Consultant
View profile

Laura Pole is senior clinical consultant for CancerChoices. Laura is an oncology clinical nurse specialist who has been providing integrative oncology clinical care, navigation, consultation, and education services for over 40 years. She is the co-creator and co-coordinator of the Integrative Oncology Navigation Training at Smith Center for Healing and the Arts in Washington, DC. Laura also manages the “Media Watch Cancer News That You Can Use” listserv for Smith Center/Commonweal. In her role as a palliative care educator and consultant, Laura has served as statewide Respecting Choices Faculty for the Virginia POST (Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment) Collaborative as well as provided statewide professional education on palliative and end-of-life care for the Virginia Association for Hospices and Palliative Care.

For CancerChoices, Laura curates content and research, networks with clinical and organizational partners, brings awareness and education of integrative oncology at professional and patient conferences and programs, and translates research into information relevant to the patient experience as well as clinical practice.

Laura sees her work with CancerChoices as a perfect alignment of all her passions, knowledge and skills in integrative oncology care. She is honored to serve you.

Laura Pole, MSN, RN, OCNS Senior Clinical Consultant

Nancy Hepp, MS

Lead Researcher
View profile

Ms. Hepp is a researcher and communicator who has been writing and editing educational content on varied health topics for more than 20 years. She serves as lead researcher and writer for CancerChoices and also served as the first program manager. Her graduate work in research and cognitive psychology, her master’s degree in instructional design, and her certificate in web design have all guided her in writing and presenting information for a wide variety of audiences and uses. Nancy’s service as faculty development coordinator in the Department of Family Medicine at Wright State University also provided experience in medical research, plus insights into medical education and medical care from the professional’s perspective.

Nancy Hepp, MS Lead Researcher

Andrew Jackson, ND

Research Associate
View profile

Andrew Jackson, ND, serves as a CancerChoices research associate. As a naturopathic physician practicing in Kirkland, Washington, he teaches critical evaluation of the medical literture at Bastyr University in Kenmore, Washington. His great appreciation of scientific inquiry and the scientific process has led him to view research with a critical eye.

Andrew Jackson, ND Research Associate

Last update: April 21, 2024

Last full literature review: July 2021

CancerChoices provides information about integrativein cancer care, a patient-centered approach combining the best of conventional care, self care, and evidence-informed complementary care in an integrated plan cancer care. We review complementaryin cancer care, complementary care involves the use of therapies intended to enhance or add to standard conventional treatments; examples include supplements, mind-body approaches such as yoga or psychosocialtherapy, and acupuncture therapies and self carelifestyle actions and behaviors that may impact cancer outcomes; examples include eating health-promoting foods, limiting alcohol, increasing physical activity, and managing stress practices to help patients and professionals explore and integrate the best combination of conventionalthe cancer care offered by conventionally trained physicians and most hospitals; examples are chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy and complementary therapies and practices for each person.

Our staff have no financial conflicts of interest to declare. We receive no funds from any manufacturers or retailers gaining financial profit by promoting or discouraging therapies mentioned on this site.

Learn more