Colon cancer has been linked to a range of well-known risk factors, including diet (red and processed meat), excessive alcohol consumption, overweight (obesity), a sedentary lifestyle, and smoking, but other issues may also play a role. What about antibiotics? Can the administration of antibiotics be so disruptive to the intestinal flora (microbiota) that it promotes the development of colorectal cancer?

A Scottish team (University of Aberdeen) analyzed data from about two million people, including several thousand suffering from colon cancer. A large number of life parameters were analyzed and compared, and it was found that high antibiotic consumption as a child or young adult significantly increases the risk of colon cancer.

The increase in risk is most pronounced in people under 50 years of age (+50%) compared to older people (+9%).

Colorectal cancer also affects more and more young patients, especially in the age group 40-50 years. Many specialists are advocating extending the screening to persons under the age of 50.

We have known for some time that treatment with antibiotics disrupts the microbiota, the bacterial flora of the intestines, with diarrhea as the classic side effect. But it is still too early to state that there is a causal link between the two.

“It is not yet clear whether antibiotics affect the microbiota in such a way that they can directly or indirectly contribute to the development of colon cancer. This new research reminds us that antibiotics should only be taken when absolutely necessary because we cannot rule out that overuse can give people an increased risk of cancer,” the reasearchers explained.

Joseph Mandell

Mandell is currently working towards a medical degree from the University of Central Florida. His main passions include kayaking, playing soccer and tasting good food. He covers mostly science, health and environmental stories for the Scientific Origin.