It has been postulated that the intestinal anaerobes play a role in the etiology of large bowel cancer. This study was designed to characterize and compare the fecal anaerobes of patients with large bowel cancer, patients with nonhereditary large bowel polyps, and healthy control subjects. Although some distributional variations of the anaerobic genera were observed among the study groups, significant differences in fecal anaerobic microflora and total aerobic counts were not noted. This suggests that taxonomic grouping of fecal bacteria is an inadequate measure of relative risk of developing large bowel cancer. However, the fecal microbial 7α-dehydroxylase and cholesterol dehydrogenase activities of large bowel cancer patients and patients with nonhereditary large bowel polyps were significantly higher than those of healthy control subjects. On the other hand, no significant difference in fecal microbial β-glucuronidase activity was noted among the study groups. It may be that assessment of the total metabolic activities of the intestinal microflora will provide a better understanding of their potential role in the genesis of large bowel cancer.


This research was supported by Grant CA 16382 awarded by the National Cancer Institute through the National Large Bowel Cancer Project.

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