Do antibiotics increase someone’s risk for colon cancer? Elizabeth Tracey reports


Almost everyone has taken an antibiotic for an infection during their lifetime. Now two new studies examine the role of antibiotics in disrupting gut microbes, and an increased risk for colon cancer. William Nelson, director of the Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, examines the data.

Nelson: One question is what do the antibiotics do to the risk of colon cancer? Which there’s a lot of suspicion that inflammation in the colon perhaps driven by some of these bugs may be a contributor to colorectal cancer. They found two studies that suggest that antibiotics might increase the risk of colon cancer, about 15 to 20% increased risk, so pretty mild effect. Although it was ten years after you took the antibiotics so in other words you somehow reset the ecology of the colon in that way.  :30

Nelson notes that the gut microbiome is extremely complex and constantly changing for everyone, making assessing the role of antibiotics in this milieu very challenging. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.