Bowel cancer risk could be increased by taking antibiotics for too long, warns study

Bowel cancer is a general term for cancer that begins in the large bowel.

Also known as colorectal cancer, bowel cancer is the cancer type with the fourth highest number of new cases in the UK.

Almost nine in 10 people with bowel cancer are aged 60 or over.

Factors increasing a person’s risk of developing the potentially deadly disease include a poor diet of too much red and processed meat and too little fibre.

Being overweight is another contributing factor, however, could another major cause be antibiotic use? New research has weighed in.

Bowel cancer and antibiotics
Several population studies have identified an association between antibiotic use and an increased risk of cancer.

Some studies have suggested that increased use of long-term antibiotics in early to middle adulthood can lead to an increased risk of developing precancerous polyps.

Bowel polyps are growths on the lining of your colon or large intestine, part of your digestive tract.

Most of them aren’t harmful, however, some can turn into colon cancer over time

A study published data from the UK which compared the risk of bowel cancer in groups who had been prescribed different amounts of antibiotics.

The researchers compared the use of antibiotics in 29,000 patients who developed bowel (colorectal) cancer with 137,000 patients who did not have bowel cancer.

Although the impact of antibiotic use was very small, the results did suggest that antibiotic use was associated with an increased risk of colon cancer.

It was found that antibiotics had previously been prescribed in 71.5% of patients who developed bowel cancer versus 69% of those who did not develop bowel cancer.

The study concluded that the risk of bowel cancer was increased with regular/prolonged use of antibiotics (16+ days) that affected certain bacteria compared to those who has not been given any antibiotics.

Symptoms of bowel cancer
You should contact your GP if you experience any of the following.

Bleeding from your bottom and/or blood in your poo

A persistent and unexplained change in bowel habit

Unexplained weight loss

Extreme tiredness for no obvious reason

A pain or lump in your tummy.