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Bacteria As A Primary Cause Of Breast Cancer


By Alan Cantwell, M.D.
Copyright © 2015


The cause of breast cancer is unknown, but over the past century various controversial scientists have implicated bacteria as the causative agent [1-8]. Despite this cancer microbe research, the bacterial theory of cancer has been widely rejected. This report suggests that the elimination of bacteria as breast cancer-causing agents was premature; and that new research gives additional credence to bacteria causing breast cancer.

The findings of the Human Microbiome Project, launched in 2006, indicate the human body contains 100 trillion microbes, most of which are bacteria. In fact, 90% of the cells of the body are not human cells, but microbial cells. The precise role these bacteria play in cancer is not known, nor has it been studied.

In addition, only recently have we learned that various organs and tissue of the human body are not sterile. Previously it was believed that such tissue was devoid of bacteria. Now various bacteria have been detected by molecular biology techniques and properly stained microscopic examination. In 2014 Urbaniak et al. [9] found a diverse population of bacteria in breast tissue, the details of which can be found online at:

There are many different risk factors postulated for breast cancer, but according to the National Cancer Institute, breast cancer is a genetic disease caused by certain changes to genes that control the way our cells function, especially how they grow and divide. These changes include mutations in the DNA that make up our genes. In this regard, it is well-accepted that bacteria frequently “swap genes” with one another. More controversial is recent research indicating that bacteria can also exchange genes with human cells, especially cancer cells. For this reason, the presence of bacteria in cancer should be taken seriously as a source of genetic alteration and cancer production [10].

Bacteria found in cancerous tissue have generally been dismissed as “secondary invaders” of tissue weakened by cancer. Bacteria cultured from cancerous tissue are often interpreted as “laboratory contaminants” of no etiologic consequence. With the new knowledge that various bacteria are universally present in breast tissue, their presence in cancer can no longer be assumed to be “secondary.” In fact, bacteria are always present before the cancer process is initiated. The reported microbiology of cancer indicates that cancer bacteria often grow in the lab as common bacteria, such as staphylococcal, streptococcal, and corynebacteria-like bacteria. Because bacteria are generally thought to play no role in cancer, such isolates are generally regarded as “contaminants” having no significance.

According to cancer microbe researchers, the germ is a pleomorphic, intracellular and extracellular microorganism that can be detected in cancerous tissue by the use of special tissue stains, particularly the acid-fast stain traditionally used for the detection of TB mycobacteria. The common form in tissue is the round staphylococcus-like coccoid form. These coccoid forms vary in size from barely visible “granules” up to much larger “globoid” forms [1,2,4,7].

The following 5 photos show the appearance of these coccoid forms in a case of intraductal breast cancer previously reported in 1981 [8].

Figure 1. Tissue section of breast cancer showing tumor cells and a nest of extracellular coccoid forms and still smaller “granular” forms, some of which are barely visible. Intensified Kinyoun (acid-fast) stain, magnification x 1000, in oil.

Figure 2. Tissue section of breast cancer showing a nest of extracellular variably-sized coccoid forms. A collection of red blood cells is seen in the upper right. Intensified Kinyoun stain, x 1000, in oil. 

Figure 3. Tissue section of breast cancer showing intracellular variably-sized coccoid forms and larger globoid forms. Intensified Kinyoun stain. x 1000, in oil

Figure 4. Tissue section of breast cancer showing a nest of variably-sized coccoid forms ranging in size from barely visible "granules" up to the size of ordinary staphylococci and still larger "globoid" forms. The size range and pleomorphic nature of the round forms suggest growth forms of so-called cell wall deficient bacteria. Intensified Kinyoun stain, mag x 1000, in oil. 

Figure 5. Smear of Staphylococcus epidermidis cultured from a biopsy taken from a metastatic nodule when the original breast cancer tumor metastasized to the skin. All the coccal forms in this photo are the size of ordinary cocci, except for two much larger forms consistent with the size of globoid forms. Compare the size and shape of the coccoid forms found in the breast tumor in photos 1-4 with the size and shape of the staphylococci grown in the laboratory. Gram stain, x 1000, in oil. 

Why have bacteria in breast tissue and breast cancer been ignored or overlooked for a century? One explanation is that the pathologists’ routine tissue staining methods for cancer diagnosis does not demonstrate bacteria well. Cancer microbe researchers discovered that special stains were required, particularly the acid-fast stain [1,4,7]. Also the cancer microbe is pleomorphic and can exhibit various guises in tissue and in the laboratory [7]. Such bacteria have been described as cell wall deficient bacteria, and there is also an ultramicroscopic viral-size growth form that can pass through lab filters designed to hold back bacteria [4].

For more details on cancer microbe research, see my articles on, including ‘Bacteria cause cancer; The microscopic evidence’ and ‘Cancer is an infection caused by tuberculosis-type bacteria’ at and

Currently, there is a slight renewal of interest in bacteria and cancer. In an editorial entitled ‘Cancer and the microbiome’, published in April 2015 in Science, Dr. Wendy Garrett explains how microbes could influence carcinogenesis by causing changes in cell proliferation and death; through immune system interference; and via metabolism of food, pharmaceuticals, and host-produced chemicals [11].

At present, the serious research of cancer microbe workers that took place decades ago has been largely forgotten, and rarely, if ever, cited by current researchers of the microbiome. This is a tragic (as well as unscientific) situation.

Bacteria are intimately associated with inflammation in the body; and inflammation precedes cancer. Bacteria are always present in breast tissue. Thus, their presence always precedes the growth of cancer. Bacteria should surely be given some renewed consideration as a cause of breast cancer.


1. Wuerthele Caspe (Livingston) V, Alexander-Jackson E, Anderson JA, et al: Cultural properties and pathogenicity of certain microorganisms obtained from various proliferative and neoplastic diseases. Amer J Med Sci 220:628-646, 1950.

2. Alexander-Jackson E: A specific type of microorganism isolated from animal and human cancer: Bacteriology of the organism.Growth 18:37-51, 1954.

3. Diller IC: Growth and morphologic variability of pleomorphic, intermittently acid-fast organisms isolated from mouse, rat, and human malignant tissues. Growth 26:181-209, 1962.

4. Wuerthele-Caspe Livingston V, Alexander-Jackson E: An experimental biologic approach to the treatment of neoplastic disease.J Amer Med Women's Assn 20:858-866, 1965.

5. Seibert FB, Farrelly FK, Shepherd CC: DMSO and other combatants against bacteria isolated from leukemia and cancer patients. Ann NY Acad Sci 141:175-201, 1967.

6. Seibert FB, Yeomans F, Baker JA, et al: Bacteria in tumors. Trans NY Acad Sci 34(6):504-533, 1972.

7. Wuerthele Caspe Livingston V, Livingston AM: Some cultural, immunological, and biochemical properties of Progenitor cryptocides. Trans NY Acad Sci 36(6):569-582, 1974.

8. Cantwell AR Jr, Kelso DW: Microbial findings in cancer of the breast and in their metastases to the skin. J Dermatol Surg Oncol 7:483-491, 1981.

9. Urbaniak C, Cummins J, Brackstone M, et al. Microbiota of human breast tissue. Appl Environ Microbiol (2014) May;80(10):3007-14. doi: 10.1128/AEM.00242-14. Epub 2014 Mar 7.

10. Riley DR, Sieber KB, Robinson KM, et al. Bacteria-Human Somatic Cell Lateral Gene Transfer Is Enriched in Cancer Samples. Eisen JA, ed. PLoS Computational Biology. 2013;9(6):e1003107. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003107.

11. Garrett WS. Microbial dysbiosis is associated with breast cancer. PLoS One (2014); 9(1): e83744. Published online 2014 Jan 8. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0083744.

[Alan Cantwell is a retired dermatologist. He is the author of The Cancer Microbe and Four Women Against Cancer, available from


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