Antibiotic use linked to 'pre-cancerous' bowel changes
Conclusion Antibiotics, like all drugs, have side effects. We know that they affect the composition of bacteria that live in a healthy gut. This study suggests that might possibly be linked to future development of bowel cancer. However, there are some major limitations to keep in mind. Bowel polyps are very common, and they're not cancerous. Most people who have them won't know they're there, unless they have a colonoscopy. Some polyps do develop into bowel cancer, but we don't know if any of these women got bowel cancer, or how many of their polyps would have become cancerous if not treated. It's highly possible that women aged 60 might not remember accurately how often they used antibiotics in their 20s, or for how long. So we can't be sure whether women were over-estimating or under-estimating their antibiotics use. Observational studies such as this cannot show that one factor directly causes another. As the researchers say, antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections. Infections cause inflammation, and that's a risk factor for cancer. So the study may have measured the effect of repeated exposure to bacterial infection, rather than use of antibiotics. The study was only carried out in women, so we don't know if the results apply to men. The study did a good job of controlling for other potential confounding risk factors, but no study can control for everything. It's possible there are other factors involved which we don't know about. Antibiotics have been over-us...
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