Long-term Antibiotics May Increase Colon Polyp Risk
A recent study suggests long-term antibiotic use is associated with an increased risk for colorectal polyps—benign growths in the colon and rectum that usually don’t cause symptoms but may become cancerous overtime if left untreated. The study, published in the journal Gut, examined data from the Nurses' Health Study—a long-term trial conducted in the United States. It involved 16,000 participants.
Researchers found that study participants who had taken antibiotics for two months or longer in their 20s and 30s were more likely to develop adenomas—a particular type of colorectal polyp—later in life than those who had not received long-term antibiotics between the ages of 20 and 39. They also found that women who had taken antibiotics for two months or longer between the ages of 40 and 59 had an even higher risk of developing adenomas as they got older. The study did not determine how many adenomas became cancerous.
Antibiotics affect bacteria in the digestive tract, which may play an important role in the development of colorectal polyps as well as cancer of the colon and rectum. However, more research is needed and people who are prescribed long-term antibiotics—which can be life-saving—should not stop taking them and should discuss any concerns with their health care providers.
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