Frequent or sustained administration of antibiotics may damage the gut flora and as a result significantly increase the risk of developing bowel cancer [http://www.gesunde-bakterien.de/en/bacteria-as-bio-markers-in-the-early-detection-of-bowel-cancer/] (colorectal cancer, CRC). This is the outcome of a study conducted at Umeå University, Sweden, with reports published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, among others. During their research, the scientists compared data from more than 40,000 CRC cases and 200,000 healthy controls. They found that frequent taking of antibiotics increased the risk of developing colorectal cancer by 17 percent.
People who took antibiotics for a period of more than six months, in particular, had a much greater risk of developing a tumor in the ascending colon. This is where most (and most notably good) bacteria live which are killed off by the broad-spectrum antibiotics used. It has long been recognized that only a small share of all bacteria is actually causing illnesses or infections. A significant majority of the bacteria in our bodies has a positive impact on our health.
Bacterial differentiation and diversity in the colonization of the colon is also evident in a different finding of the study: women who took antibiotics had a slightly reduced incidence of tumors in the rectum, i.e. the lowest part of the descending colon. This suggests that in this area, potential causative agents were actually eliminated.
Administration of antibiotics may be necessary to kill off dangerous pathogens. However, we should always keep in mind that one side-effect of antibiotics is the damage they do to the gut flora [http://www.gesunde-bakterien.de/en/gut-flora/]. Hence, use should be minimized and, if possible, they should never be taken over longer periods of time (see also http://www.gesunde-bakterien.de/en/antibiotics/). Sophia Harlid, head of the study, noted in a similar vein: “The results underline the fact that there are many reasons to be restrictive with antibiotics”, the university quotes her in its press release. Many diseases would also heal without an antibacterial therapy.
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