Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Aberdeen University scientists find link between antibiotics and increased chances of colon cancer

Post Thumbnail

Scientists from Aberdeen University have found that antibiotic use may increase the risk of developing colon cancer.

The study, conducted alongside academics from NHS Grampian and Queen’s University in Belfast, compared almost 40,000 people’s results.

Analysing antibiotic use and lifestyle factors of those who had colorectal cancer and those who didn’t – they found no link with rectal cancer, but they did with colon cancer.

It is also believed that the link could be stronger in younger people.

Researchers found that antibiotic use was linked with an estimated 50% higher risk of colon cancer in people under 50.

The numbers, while relatively low, also suggested that those over the age of 50 had an estimated 9% higher chance of developing colon cancer.

‘Not everyone who uses antibiotics will get bowel cancer’

Sarah Perrott, from Aberdeen University and co-first author of the research, said: “Antibiotic use is very common, and it is important to note that not everyone who uses antibiotics will get bowel cancer.

“However, while invaluable in medicine, antibiotics should be used appropriately and only when necessary.”

The study has been published in the British Journal of Cancer and was funded by Cancer Research UK.

Previously, only a small number of studies investigating an antibiotic and colon cancer link existed and these studies were limited to older adults and showed mixed results.

Ms Perrot added: “We found antibiotic exposure was associated with colon cancer among all age groups.

“This, along with multiple other dietary and lifestyle factors, may be contributing to increased cases of colon cancer among young people.”

Why are they linked?

Antibiotics are used to treat or prevent some types of bacterial infections. They work by killing bacteria or preventing them from spreading.

However, because bacteria are so diverse, altering it can interfere with a person’s natural immune system.

This can then lead to inflammation and potentially increase the risk of cancer.

Ms Perrott added: “Antibiotics can unintentionally induce gut dysbiosis, which may lead to permanent changes to the natural gut environment. This disruption to the gut microbiome may be what drives this increase in risk.”

It has also been emphasised that diet, lifestyle and stress affect gut health as well.

The team suggested that antibiotics should be prescribed carefully in light of the results.

She added: “Healthcare professionals and members of the public need to be aware that unnecessary antibiotic use, especially among young people, should be avoided.”

Senior author Dr Leslie Samuel, consultant GI oncologist at NHS Grampian, said: “We are seeing more cases where people under 50 are being diagnosed with colorectal cancer – a disease traditionally seen in older people. Many do not have factors we might expect to see, such as diabetes, obesity, high alcohol intake and a sedentary lifestyle.

“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.”

Medical alternatives

After publishing the study’s findings, the team have suggested that probiotic supplements could counteract the antibiotics adverse effects.

Their use could improve and restore a gut to its natural equilibrium.

Alice Davies, health information manager at Cancer Research UK, said: “The results of this study build on previous research examining a link between antibiotic use and colon cancer.

“Currently there isn’t enough evidence to say if antibiotics are definitely increasing people’s risk, but this gives us another piece of the puzzle. Continued research is needed, we still need to understand which antibiotics might increase the risk, how this happens, and how much they increase risk by.

“Antibiotics are an essential tool in combatting common illnesses so it’s important to follow your doctor’s advice on taking them.”

Already a subscriber? Sign in