Current Colorectal Cancer Reports

, Volume 15, Issue 2, pp 70–77 | Cite as

Deciphering the Colorectal Cancer Gut Microbiota: Association vs. Causality

  • Kristina M. BridgesEmail author
  • K. Allen Greiner
  • Shahid Umar
Basic Science Foundations in Colorectal Cancer (S Umar, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Basic Science Foundations in Colorectal Cancer


Purpose of Review

Studies have identified differences between the gut microbiota of colorectal cancer (CRC) patients versus healthy individuals. In this review, we assess the scientific literature to determine if gut microbes should be considered causal, co-varying, or a necessary but not sufficient agent in CRC development.

Recent Findings

Oral bacteria may influence CRC susceptibility. Colonic biofilms in both sporadic and hereditary CRC suggest these bacteria are present in early neoplasia. Pathogenic drivers and opportunistic passenger bacteria may underlie direct effect of the gut microbiota on carcinogenesis.


Members of multiple bacterial taxa have been implicated in CRC tumorigenesis and progression, with distinct mechanisms of action described for each. Individual bacterial organisms found in the colon are likely not enough to explain CRC development and progression. The entire colonic environment, including genetic factors, local tissue inflammatory state as well as dietary components may influence the way epithelial cells respond to the presence of certain bacteria. Longitudinal, human intervention studies are needed to completely clarify complex interactions in the colonic environment and specific causative pathways between the microbiota and CRC.


Gut microbiota Microbiome Colorectal Cancer Inflammation Diet Colon 



The authors would like to thank Drs. Christina Hester and Ishfaq Ahmed for thoughtful discussion.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Kristina M. Bridges, K. Allen Greiner, and Shahid Umar declare they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kristina M. Bridges
    • 1
    Email author
  • K. Allen Greiner
    • 1
  • Shahid Umar
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Family Medicine Research DivisionUniversity of Kansas Medical CenterKansas CityUSA
  2. 2.Department of SurgeryUniversity of Kansas Medical CenterKansas CityUSA

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