ISLAMABAD: According to a recent study published in the journal Gut, long-term use of antibiotics during adulthood increases the likelihood of developing precursors to bowel cancer. The research, once again, underlines the vital role of gut bacteria.

Links between antibiotics and a range of conditions have come to light over recent years, including irritable bowel disease, celiac disease, and even obesity.

This connection between antibiotics and disease is thought to be due to the effect of antibiotics on the makeup of gut bacteria (the microbiome); by altering the numbers and types of bacteria present in the gut, metabolic or pathological processes may be triggered.

Once the data were analyzed, the team saw that antibiotic use within the last 4 years was not associated with bowel cancer, "but long-term use in the past was."
This link remained significant regardless of whether the adenoma was classed as high- or low-risk for bowel cancer. However, the association was stronger for growths located in the proximal rather than the distal colon. The proximal colon is the first section of the colon, connected to the small intestine, and it consists of the caecum, ascending colon, hepatic flexure, transverse colon, and splenic figure. The distal colon is the section that connects to the rectum and comprises the descending and sigmoid colon.

Similarly, when women who had not taken antibiotics in their 20s to 50s were compared with individuals who had taken them for more than 15 days between the ages of 20 and 59, there was a 73 percent increased risk of adenoma diagnosis. Of course, further studies will be necessary to confirm the findings; although the study was large-scale, there are some shortcomings. The study is observational, making firm conclusions about cause and effect difficult to draw. Furthermore, some adenomas may have been present before antibiotics were used. It is also important to note that bugs that require antibiotics often cause inflammation in the gut, which in itself is a known risk factor for bowel cancer.

Although more work will need to be done, there is a plausible biological explanation for the potential link between antibiotics and bowel cancer. Antibiotics significantly alter the microbiome by depleting certain types of bacteria and changing the overall makeup of the gut flora. This is backed up by earlier research that found lower levels of certain bacteria and higher levels of others in bowel cancer patients.