Extensive antibiotics use increases future risk of colon cancer

September 6, 2021
Extensive antibiotics use increases future risk of colon cancer

Constant use of antibiotics can affect the intestinal microbiome and increase the risk of colon cancer, confirmed researchers at Umeå University, Sweden. According to Sophia Harlid, cancer researcher at the university, although the increase in risk was greatest for those taking a high amount of antibiotics, the Swedish study of 40,000 cancer cases also suggests a small, but statistically significant, increase in the risk of cancer after taking a single course of antibiotics.

[The Swedish study compared data on 40,000 patients from the Swedish Colorectal Cancer Registry from the period 2010-2016 against a matched control group of 200,000 cancer-free individuals drawn from the Swedish population at large. Data on the individuals’ antibiotic use was collected from the Swedish Prescribed Drug Register for the period 2005-2016.]

It was found that both women and men who took oral antibiotics for over six months ran a 17% greater risk of developing cancer in the first part of the colon to be reached by food after the small intestine, than those who did not. The increased risk of colon cancer was visible already five to ten years after taking antibiotics.

Read also: Antimicrobial polymers as alternatives to antibiotics

Surprisingly, no increased risk was observed for cancer in the descending colon; nor was there an increased risk of rectal cancer in men taking antibiotics. However, women taking antibiotics had a slightly reduced incidence of rectal cancer.

The researchers had additionally studied a non-antibiotic bactericidal drug used against urinary infections: there was no difference in the frequency of colon cancer in those who used this drug, highlighting the impact of antibiotics on the gut microbiome was what increased the risk of cancer.

Even intravenous antibiotics may affect the gut microbiota in the intestinal system, the researchers said.

“In many cases antibiotic therapy is necessary and saves lives, [but] in the event of less serious ailments that can be expected to heal anyway, caution should be exercised,” said Harlid.”There is absolutely no cause for alarm simply because you have taken antibiotics. The increase in risk is moderate and the effect on the absolute risk to the individual is fairly small.”

Harlid mentioned that Sweden wascurrently in the process of introducing routine screening for colorectal cancer, important for early detection, prevention, and – sometimes – removal of cancer precursors.

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Category: Features, Health alert

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