Extended antibiotic use may be linked to higher risk of abnormal growths linked with bowel cancer

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Women who take antibiotics over a long-term period during early to mid-life could be at an increased risk of developing abnormal growths (adenoma) associated with bowel cancer.

According to new research led by the Solent NHS Trust and Southampton University, those who took antibiotics for two months or more in their 20s and 30s were 36% more likely to be diagnosed with an adenoma than those who had not received antibiotics for an extended period.

This adds to a growing body of research on how the gut microbiome (made up of ‘good’ bacteria found in the gut) plays a key role in the development of many diseases, including cancer. It is believed that the use of antibiotics alters the gut microbiome and reduces resistance to hostile organisms.

The study, which included data from 16,642 women, also showed that women who had used antibiotics for two months or more during their 40s and 50s were 69% more likely to be diagnosed with an adenoma. 

Colorectal adenomas (polyps) are abnormal growths in the colon and rectum that precede the development of most cases of bowel cancer.

The association applied regardless of whether the adenoma was considered a high or low risk for bowel cancer.

The researchers concluded: “The findings, if confirmed by other studies, suggest the potential need to limit the use of antibiotics and sources of inflammation that may drive tumour formation.”