Experts are warning those who make reckless use of well-known drugs after research has found their association with the development of colon cancer.
Antibiotic use may raise the risk of Colorectal cancer (CRC), especially in young people.
This is the conclusion reached by researchers from the University of Aberdeen, the British National Health Service’s Grampian Hospital, and the Royal University of Belfast.
The report, which was sponsored by Cancer Research UK and published in the British Journal of Cancer, looked at data from 7,903 people who had colon cancer and compared them to more than 30,418 people who had not been diagnosed with cancer.
The researchers looked at both genetic and non-genetic characteristics to see if antibiotic use was linked to colon cancer.
They altered their alcohol use, smoking, and weight to better understand the consequences of other variables.
Furthermore, they separated the early and late colon cancers subjects.
The results revealed that, while there was no link between antibiotic usage and the development of rectal cancer, there was a link between antibiotic use and the development of colon cancer.
In particular, scientists discovered for the first time that, while total numbers remain low, antibiotic use was linked to a 5% higher risk of colon cancer in those under 50 and a 9% higher risk in people over 50.
The association is claimed to be due to antibiotics’ effect on the natural diversity of bacteria in the gut microbiome, which can result in altered bacterial activity and impair the immune system’s proper function. This results in chronic inflammation and increases the chance of cancer potentially.
“We found antibiotic exposure was associated with colon cancer among all age groups,” said Sarah Perrott, author of the study.
“This, along with multiple other dietary and lifestyle factors, may be contributing to increased cases of colon cancer among young people.”
She added: “Antibiotic use is very common, and it is important to note that not everyone who uses antibiotics will get bowel cancer.”
Miss Perrott said antibiotics had a “detrimental impact on the gut microbiota” and they can lead to “permanent changes to the natural gut environment”.
“It is important to note that diet, lifestyle, stress, and so many different factors can affect gut health and antibiotic use is just one of those factors,” she said.
According to the study, it is not the antibiotics themselves that are carcinogenic, but the changes in gut flora that occur as a result of their use.
According to Dr. Leslie Samuel, senior author and consultant GI oncologist at NHS Grampian, doctors are witnessing an increasing number of patients under the age of 50 with colon cancer.
Doctor further added: “The gut microbiome comprises a delicate balance of bacteria and disruption to that – be it from lifestyle factors or from repeated use of antibiotics as we have seen here, can have very serious consequences.”
“Currently, there isn’t enough evidence to say if antibiotics are definitely increasing people’s risk,” Alice Davies of Cancer Research UK said, “but this gives us another piece of the puzzle.”
People should follow their doctor’s advise if antibiotics are prescribed, she stressed.
The results of the study showed that nearly 55 percent of patients with CRC in each group were men, and nearly 50 percent had received an antibiotic prescription. When compared to those who did not acquire CRC, more people who got CRC had taken antibiotics.
Antibiotic use was linked to a 49 percent increased risk of colon cancer in individuals under 50 years old and a 9 percent higher risk in those 50 and over.
Dr. Samuel told Medical News Today that “It was not surprising to find a link between antibiotics and an increased risk of colon cancer in younger people, but it is true that the magnitude of the risk (nearly 50%) was a surprise.”
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