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Gut microbiome, body weight, and mammographic breast density in healthy postmenopausal women

Lusine Yaghjyan 1Volker Mai 1 2Xuefeng Wang 3Maria Ukhanova 2Maximiliano Tagliamonte 2Yessica C Martinez 3Shannan N Rich 1Kathleen M Egan 4 5

Cancer Causes Control. 2021 Mar 27.doi: 10.1007/s10552-021-01420-6. 


Purpose: We examined gut microbiome (GM) profiles in relation to mammographic breast density (BD) and body mass index (BMI) in healthy postmenopausal women.

Methods: Eligible women were postmenopausal, had a BMI ≤ 35 kg/m2, and had not recently taken oral/IV antibiotics. All women provided a fecal sample and information on breast cancer risk factors. Mammographic BD was classified with the American College of Radiology’s BI-RADS BD classification system. Bacterial DNA was isolated from fecal samples and the V1-V2 hypervariable regions of 16S rRNA were sequenced on the Illumina MiSeq platform. We examined associations of GM with indices of within-sample (alpha) diversity and the ratio of the two main phyla (Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes; F/B ratio) with BD and BMI.

Results: Among 69 women with BD data, 39 had low BD (BI-RADS I/II) and 30 had high BD (BI-RADS III/IV). BMI was inversely associated with BD (mean BMI = 23.8 and 28.0 in women with high and low BD, respectively, p = 1.07 × 10-5). Similar levels of GM diversity were found across weight groups according to Shannon (p = 0.83); Inverse Simpson (p = 0.97); and Chao1 (p = 0.31) indices. F/B ratio and microbiota diversity were suggestively greater in women with high vs. low BD (p = 0.35, 0.14, 0.15, and 0.17 for F/B ratio, Shannon, Inverse Simpson and Chao1, respectively).

Conclusion: Suggestive differences observed in women with high and low BD with respect to GM alpha diversity and prevalence of specific GM taxa need to be confirmed in larger studies.