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Antibiotics and Colon Cancer: What You Need to Know!

  • Category: Gastroenterology
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Dr. Scott Daugherty, Colon & Rectal Surgery
Antibiotics and Colon Cancer: What You Need to Know!

Colorectal cancer is currently the third most common cancer and the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S. While traditionally, colorectal cancer develops in older people, it has increased sharply in those under the age of 50, potentially linked to unhealthy diets high in processed meat and fat. Another potential link in a recent study points to antibiotic use and the increased risk of developing colon cancer, especially before 50 years of age.

Antibiotics upset the balance of the microbiomes in the gut, which lead to an over- or under-production of chemicals that regulate the immune system. Microorganisms called gut microbiome live in the gastrointestinal tract and play an important and complex role in our health. These microbiomes help break down toxic chemicals, digest food, and release important substances that regulate the immune system. Antibiotics cause the gut to produce intestinal toxins that trigger the production of certain bacteria that can cause inflammation and diarrhea. This inflammatory response leads to an increase in the production of pathogenic bacteria that causes disease and can fuel cancer growth.

While diet is important to overall good health, this study sheds more light on the need to be more restrictive with prescribing and avoiding unnecessary antibiotics in children and early adults. Prolonged use for over six months has been shown to increase the risk of developing colon cancer by 17%.

Common symptoms of colorectal cancer can include diarrhea or constipation, abdominal pain and bloating, fatigue or tiredness, blood in the feces or from the rectum, unexplained weight loss, or anemia. Tell your doctor about any symptoms you may have or if you have a family history of colorectal cancer, inflammatory bowel disease or a confirmed or suspected hereditary colorectal cancer syndrome. Some people have no symptoms at all, which makes screenings so important. Regular screenings for colorectal cancer should begin at age 45 and is key to early detection and prevention.

Ray Scott Daugherty, Jr., MD
Colon & Rectal Surgery, Surgical Oncology 
Baton Rouge General Physicians - Colon and Rectal Associates