What is the role of antibiotics in the etiology of colon cancer?

Updated: Apr 15, 2020
  • Author: Tomislav Dragovich, MD, PhD; Chief Editor: N Joseph Espat, MD, MS, FACS  more...
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Answer

A matched case-control study of incident colorectal cancer cases in the United Kingdom from 1989 to 2012 found that use of oral antibiotics was associated with increased risk of colon cancer, particularly in the proximal colon. The association involved antibiotic exposure occurring more than 10 years before colon cancer diagnosis. Risk was dose dependent but was observed after even a single course of antibiotics. In addition, risk was greatest with anti-anaerobic antibiotics. The authors note that such antibiotics markedly disrupt the gut microbiome, which consists predominantly of anaerobes, and this disruption may facilitate the acquisition or development of a carcinogenic colon microbiota. [22]


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