Journal scan

Antibiotic use in early to mid life linked to heightened risk of bowel cancer precursor

Long-term antibiotic use in early to mid life may be linked to a heightened risk of abnormal growths in the colon and rectum that usually precede the development of bowel cancer, a study of US nurses reveals.
Antibiotics_tile_iStock.jpg

Long-term antibiotic use in early to mid life may be linked to a heightened risk of abnormal growths in the colon and rectum that usually precede the development of bowel cancer, a study of US nurses reveals.

Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital analysed data from the Nurses Health Study, which has monitored the health of 121,700 US nurses since 1976.

Participants completed a questionnaire about demographics, lifestyle and medical history every two years, and another about dietary habits every four years.

The team selected reports on 16,642 women aged 60 and over in 2004 with a history of antibiotic use between the ages of 20 and 59, and who had at least one bowel investigation between 2004-10.

During this period, 1,195 adenomas,

...

Long-term antibiotic use in early to mid life may be linked to a heightened risk of abnormal growths in the colon and rectum that usually precede the development of bowel cancer, a study of US nurses reveals.


The medical study focused on the reports of women aged 60 and over
with a history of antibiotic use. Picture: iStock

Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital analysed data from the Nurses Health Study, which has monitored the health of 121,700 US nurses since 1976.

Participants completed a questionnaire about demographics, lifestyle and medical history every two years, and another about dietary habits every four years.

The team selected reports on 16,642 women aged 60 and over in 2004 with a history of antibiotic use between the ages of 20 and 59, and who had at least one bowel investigation between 2004-10.

During this period, 1,195 adenomas, also known as polyps, were newly identified in the colon or rectum.

Limiting use 

Compared with those who hadn't taken antibiotics for any extended period in their 20s and 30s, those who had taken them for two months or more were 36% more likely to be diagnosed with an adenoma.

Those who took antibiotics for more than 15 days between the ages of 20 and 39 and again between the ages of 40 and 59 were 73% more likely to develop polyps.

The findings add to emerging evidence that the type and diversity of bacteria in the gut, referred to as the 'microbiome,' may have a key role in the development of cancer, say the researchers.

'The findings, if confirmed by other studies, suggest the potential need to limit the use of antibiotics and sources of inflammation that may drive tumour formation,' they conclude.


Chan A (2017), Long term use of antibiotics and risk of colorectal adenoma. Gut (BMJ). Doi: http://gut.bmj.com/content/early/2017/03/16/gutjnl-2016-313413

Want to read more?

Subscribe for unlimited access

Enjoy 1 month's access for £1 and get:

  • Full access to nursing standard.com and the Nursing Standard app
  • Monthly digital edition
  • RCNi Portfolio and interactive CPD quizzes
  • RCNi Learning with 200+ evidence-based modules
  • 10 articles a month from any other RCNi journal

This article is not available as part of an institutional subscription. Why is this?

Jobs