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Bowel cancer: A popular medication can change person’s gut microbiome and increase risk

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In a study published in BMJ, antibiotic use being linked to heightened bowel cancer risk was further analysed.

The study found that antibiotics have a strong and long-lasting impact on the gut microbiome, altering the balance of helpful and harmful bacteria.

The findings suggest a pattern of risk that may be linked to differences in gut microbiome (bacteria) activity along the length of the bowel and reiterate the importance of judicious prescribing, say the researchers.

The researchers collected prescribing information for 28,930 patients diagnosed with bowel and rectal cancers during an average monitoring period of 8 years, and for 137,077 patients, matched for age and sex, who didn’t develop these cancers. 

Antibiotics had been prescribed to 70 percent (20,278) of patients with bowel and rectal cancers and to 68.5 percent (93,862) of those without. Nearly six out of 10 study participants had been prescribed more than one class of antibiotic.  

“The association between bowel cancer and antibiotic use was evident among patients who had taken these drugs more than 10 years before their cancer was diagnosed,” noted the study. 

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