Can antibiotic use lead to colon cancer?

Can antibiotic use lead to an increased risk of colorectal cancer? Apparently.

“An increasing total exposure to antibiotics at age 20–39 was significantly associated with a higher risk of colorectal adenoma… Similarly, antibiotic use during age 40–59 was associated with an increased risk of colorectal adenoma… The associations were similar for low-risk versus high-risk adenomas.”

Picture of doctor giving white pills and glass of water

Colorectal adenoma — “is a precursor lesion of the colorectal adenocarcinoma (colon cancer)” — Wikipedia

Quotes below are from (many quotes from the full study)

This study showed that the adenomas and cancer took a number of years to develop as the increased risk of colon cancer in the short term (<4 years) was very low.

Other studies have found similar results, but these studies didn’t follow people for more than a decade (the time needed for cancers to develop).

“A cohort study in Finland found that compared with people with =1 prescription for antibiotics, people who had =6 prescriptions had a 15% increased risk of developing colon cancer during up to 9 years of follow-up.”

The proposed link between antibiotics and colorectal cancer or adenoma?

“The proposed link between exposure to antibiotics and development of colorectal neoplasia is biologically plausible. Antibiotics shift the gut microbiota to temporally quasi-stable or alternative stable states… The interactions of these dysbiotic microbiota with mucosal immune and epithelial cells may be critical in the initiation and/or promotion of colorectal carcinogenesis.”

So what can you do to help mitigate the risks of antibiotic associated colon cancer? Rebuild and support your microbiome!


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