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Study finds link between use of antibiotics and bowel cancer

Experts warn against self-medication

SAMAA | - Posted: Sep 11, 2019 | Last Updated: 1 year ago
Posted: Sep 11, 2019 | Last Updated: 1 year ago
Study finds link between use of antibiotics and bowel cancer

Photo: AFP


Taking antibiotics for a long period of time or self-medicating with antibiotics may put you at a higher risk of developing large bowel cancer, say researchers.

A recent study from the United Kingdom reveals the link between prolonged antibiotic use and the risk of developing colon cancer. Published in the journal ‘Gut’, the study’s authors based their conclusions on data from 11.3 million patients studied between 1989 and 2012.

They studied the medical records of 19,726 patients between the ages of 40 to 90 years who developed colon cancer. What they found was that patients who had taken antibiotics for gut conditions went on to develop bowel cancer more frequently than those who hadn’t. Even those who had been exposed to antibiotics 10 years ago had a higher risk of developing cancer.

Since antibiotics affect the bacteria in the gut, they can often cause lasting changes. These changes can then lead to mutations, causing cancer, according to the study.

Related: How much of the food we eat has antibiotics?

“Antibiotics are a double-edged sword. Where they kill some bacteria they can kill all of them, even the good ones that your body needs for digestion, absorption of important vitamins and minerals,” explained Dr Mehreen, a general physician, on SAMAA TV’s programme Naya Din on Wednesday.

She said that antibiotics were only supposed to be used for bacterial infections. The common cold, flu, etc should not be treated by antibiotics as they are viral illnesses.

In our country we take antibiotics for any illness, Dr Mehreen said, adding that it is a very dangerous practice. People also take antibiotics without a doctor’s prescription if anyone they know had taken them for a similar condition.

Just because a medicine works for you doesn’t mean it will work for your relatives or friends, she said.

Dr Mehreen added that diet and exercise played a huge role in protecting from cancer and advised people to increase the consumption of fibre and fresh vegetables. Finally, she strictly advised against taking antibiotics unless prescribed.

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