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Study: Antibiotic Overuse May Increase Bowel Cancer Risks

Apr 7, 2017

U.S. Study Finds Antibiotic Overuse May Increase Bowel Cancer Risks

Antibiotic Overuse May Increase Bowel Cancer Risks

A new United States study has found that the overuse of antibiotics might increase a person's risk of developing bowel cancer. The research was published in the medical journal Gut.

The study revealed that extended use of antibiotics significantly increased the likelihood of polyp formation in the colon, a known precursor of bowel cancer. The research findings strengthen emerging verification that the type and diversity of gut bacteria are critical to the development of cancer, according to the study's authors, the Australian Associated Press/The Guardian wrote.

Associate Professor Graham Newstead, an Australian bowel cancer expert, head of the colorectal unit at the Prince of Wales private hospital, and director of Bowel Cancer Australia, said the research had "credence" adding that, "We know already that if you take antibiotics you frequently get diarrhea," the Australian Associated Press/The Guardian reported.

The researchers found that this occurred because the antibiotic killed some of the normal bacteria, which led to an overgrowth of the abnormal bacteria in the gut. According to the Australian Associated Press/The Guardian, Newstead said that the research did not review the effect of antibiotics on the colon; therefore, caution is recommended.

The U.S. researchers monitored the health of more than 120,000 nurses who were between the age of 30 and 55 and who participated in the Nurses Health Study, which was implemented in 1976. A total of 1,194 abnormal growths in the colon and rectum were diagnosed between 2004 and 2010. The nurses who had taken antibiotics for at least two months and who were between the ages of 20 and 39 were 36 percent likelier to be diagnosed with an adenoma (polyp) when compared with nurses who had not taken antibiotics for any extended time frame during their 20s and 30s, according to the Australian Associated Press/The Guardian. Likewise, nurses who had taken antibiotics for two months or more when they were in their 40s and 50s were 69 percent likelier to be diagnosed with an adenoma. The nurse participants who had taken antibiotics for 15 days or more when they were between 20 and 39 years of age and between 40 and 59 years of age were 73 percent likelier to be diagnosed with an adenoma.

According to MedicalNewsToday, the team discovered that antibiotic use within the prior four years was not associated with bowel cancer, "but long-term use in the past was." The association remained significant despite if the adenoma was classed as high- or low-risk for bowel cancer. The association was stronger for growths that were located in the proximal and not the distal colon.

The proximal colon is the first section of the colon and is connected to the small intestine. The proximal colon consists of the cecum, ascending colon, hepatic flexure, transverse colon, and splenic figure. The distal colon is that section of the colon that connects to the rectum and consists of the descending and sigmoid colon, according to MedicalNewsToday.

"It does seem to indicate that people who have too many antibiotics might be at more risk of getting polyps than people who have less of them," Newstead said. "And, remembering that not all polyps turn to cancer but the cancer comes from the polyps. If you have more polyps or tendency to get polyps then maybe you are slightly more at risk of getting cancer," he told the Australian Associated Press/The Guardian. He noted that the study message is that antibiotics should not be taken for minor symptoms or a cold.

Although other research has pointed to the possibility that antibiotic use might be associated with bowel cancer, prior studies have only consisted of relatively short monitoring periods, Medical News Today noted.

The new study involved researchers reviewing the potential connection, but in more detail. Every two years, the nurse participants completed comprehensive questionnaires that documented general demographic information, lifestyle factors (smoking and exercise), medical history, and disease development. Every four years, the participants completed a questionnaire concerning their dietary habits, according Medical News Today.

The researchers used data from 16,642 of these women who were aged 60 or older in 2004. The women were able to provide information about antibiotic use when they were between the ages of 20 and 59 and who had undergone at least one colonoscopy between 2004 and 2010. A colonoscopy is a type of bowel examination.

Bowel Cancer Risks

MedicalNewsToday wrote that additional research is needed to confirm the findings; however, this recent study was large-scale. The research was observational, which may make strong conclusions about cause and effect challenging. Also, some adenomas may have been present prior to antibiotic use and illnesses that require antibiotics often cause inflammation in the gut, which is a known risk factor for bowel cancer.

Regardless, MedicalNewsToday pointed out that, while additional research is needed, there exists "a plausible biological explanation for the potential link between antibiotics and bowel cancer. Antibiotics significantly alter the microbiome by depleting certain types of bacteria and changing the overall makeup of the gut flora." Prior research, which found lower levels of certain bacteria and higher levels of others in bowel cancer patients backed up this recent research. Also, given that antibiotic use in the U.S. is on the rise, this area of study is critical and the negative consequences of antibiotics should be thoroughly reviewed, noted MedicalNewsToday.

The authors concluded that, "The findings, if confirmed by other studies, suggest the potential need to limit the use of antibiotics and sources of inflammation that may drive tumor formation."

Parker Waichman LLP has spent decades representing clients in drug and medical device injury lawsuits. The firm continues to offer free legal consultations to individuals with questions about filing an antibiotic-colon cancer lawsuit.

Bowel Cancer Risks

Medical News Today pointed out that the research notes the critical role of bacteria in the gut.

In 2017, an estimated 95,520 new cases of colon cancer and 39,910 new cases of rectal cancer in the United States will be diagnosed. Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in the U.S., preceded by skin cancers, according to Medical News Today.

Bowel cancer risk factors include a lack of physical activity, a low intake of fruits and vegetables, being overweight or obese, and alcohol consumption. The new study may include long-term antibiotic use as a risk factor. In fact, ties between antibiotics and various conditions have emerged in recent years, including irritable bowel disease, celiac disease, and obesity.

The association is believed to be the result of the effect of antibiotics on the composition of gut bacteria by the way in which antibiotics alter the numbers and types of bacteria present in the gut. Because of this, metabolic or pathological processes may be triggered. The composition of the bacteria in the gut is known as the microbiome, MedicalNewsToday wrote.

Filing a Antibiotic Colon Cancer Lawsuit

If you or someone you know is interested in filing a personal injury lawsuit over antibiotic colon cancer, contact Parker Waichman today. Our firm offers free, no-obligation case evaluations. For more information, fill out our online form or call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).

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