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Bowel cancer: New research demonstrates a ‘clear link’ between antibiotics and tumours

Deborah James discusses 'scary' bowel cancer symptoms

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Umea University, Sweden, shared the results of their eye-opening research earlier this month, stating: “The impact of antibiotics on the intestinal microbiome is thought to lie behind the increased risk of cancer.” Taking antibiotics has been “confirmed” to raise bowel cancer risk in the next five to 10 years. “The results underline the fact that there are many reasons to be restrictive with antibiotics,” warned cancer researcher Sophia Harlid.

“While in many cases antibiotic therapy is necessary and saves lives, in the event of less serious ailments that can be expected to heal anyway, caution should be exercised.”

This is to help curb resistance to antibiotics and to lower bowel cancer risk.

The research paper pointed out that both men and women who took antibiotics for over six months ran a 17 percent greater risk of developing cancer in the ascending colon.

Such a markedly strong risk was greatest for those taking the most antibiotics.

The data set also demonstrated a “small, but statistically significant” increase in the risk of cancer after a single course of antibiotics.

Data was sourced from 40,000 patients on the Swedish Colorectal Cancer Registry from the period between 2010 to 2016.

These patients were compared to a matched control group of 200,000 cancer-free individuals drawn from the Swedish population at large.

While the study only covers orally administered antibiotics, there is agreement that intravenous antibiotics may affect the gut microbiota too.

“There is absolutely no cause for alarm simply because you have taken antibiotics,” reassured Harlid.

“The increase in risk is moderate and the effect on the absolute risk to the individual is fairly small,” she continued.

Bowel cancer

Bowel Cancer UK said: “The earlier [the disease] is diagnosed, the easier it is to treat.

“People whose cancer is diagnosed at an early stage have a much higher chance of successful treatment than those whose cancer has become more widespread.”

Symptoms of bowel cancer

  • 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.

Always speak to your GP if you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms.

While there can be many other ailments that can lead to similar symptoms, it’s always best to get checked out.

The charity Bowel Cancer UK has a “symptoms diary” you can download and fill out.

Such a tool can make it easier to paint a clearer picture to your doctor about your ongoing symptoms.

Known as one of the most preventable cancers, how can you minimise your risk of bowel cancer developing?

You can:

  • Avoid processed meat and limit red meat
  • Eat plenty of fibre from whole grains, pulses, vegetables and fruit
  • Be a healthy body weight
  • Do 30 minutes of activity, five times per week
  • Reduce alcohol consumption, or don’t drink at all
  • Don’t smoke.

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  • Posted on September 12, 2021