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Antibiotics Use Linked with Increased Cancer Risk


by Barbara Minton
See all TBYIL articles by Barbara Minton

(The Best Years in Life) Isn't it ironic that the very thing we were taught would save us may actually be increasing our chances of death from a fatal disease! Recent research has established the link between antibiotic use and cancer.

The results of a nationwide cohort study to determine whether antibiotic use predicts the development of various cancers was published in the International Journal of Cancer. The research involved 3,112,624 individuals, aged 30-79 years, with no history of cancer. Information on the antibiotic use of the participants was obtained from the Drug Prescription Registry in Finland. During the following six years, 134,070 cancer cases in this group were documented from the Finnish Cancer Registry.

Antibiotic use was associated with increased risk of cancer in this study as follows: in the reference group having 0-1 antibiotic prescriptions, the risk of cancer was not increased (1.0). In the group having 2-5 prescriptions, the risk of cancer was 1.27, an increase in relative risk of 27%. In the group having more than 6 antibiotic prescriptions, the risk of cancer was 1.37, an increase in relative risk of 37%.

Relative risks for the most common primary sites of the cancer were 1.39 for prostate, 1.14 for breast, 1.79 for lung, 1.15 for colon, and an eye-popping 2.60 for endocrine cancers such as thyroid and some types of pancreatic.

The hypothesis that use of antibiotics may increase risk of cancer was first proposed several decades ago. However, biological and epidemiological studies of the association between antibiotics and cancer were limited until the year 2000, when another cohort study in Finland looked at breast cancer patients. In that study researchers investigated 10,000 women and found that those younger than age 50 who reported taking antibiotics had elevated rates of breast cancer compared with women who didn’t use antibiotics.

Then in 2004, scientists from the University of Washington, the National Cancer Institute, Group Health Cooperative, and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle examined the association between the use of antibiotics and risk of breast cancer for their case controlled study, they examined the health records of 2266 women over the age of 19 who had been diagnosed with primary invasive breast cancer. They also randomly selected 7953 females as controls.


They found that increasing cumulative days of antibiotic use were associated with increased risk of incidence of breast cancer as follows: for categories of days using antibiotics (0, 1-50, 51-100,100-500, 501-1000, and greater than 1001 cumulative days), the odds for breast cancer development were 1.0 (reference group) 1.45, 1.53, 1.68, 2.14, and 2.07. These findings show that the risk of breast cancer doubled in those who had used antibiotics for more than 500 cumulative days. The reported antibiotic use included not only the class of fluoroquinolone antibiotics, known to be carcinogenic, but also commonly used antibiotics such as tetracycline, erythromycin, penicillin and cephalexin.

Antibiotics were shown to be an even greater risk factor than synthetic hormone drug replacement therapy (HRT), according to the lead researcher. Synthetic HRT has been shown to pose a 30-40 percent increased risk to women of being diagnosed with breast cancer.

The researchers placed their results in the context that antibiotics may be associated with the risk of breast cancer through their effects on immune function, inflammation, and metabolism of estrogen and phytochemicals (natural compounds found in plants).

Additional associations may include the long-term toxic effects of drugs on body function, and the overburdening of liver function in response to this toxic burden. The undermining of immune function may include a surge in the growth of intestinal pathogens in response to the antibiotic suppression of friendly bacteria. Since 80% of the immune response depends on proper bacterial balance in the intestinal tract the overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria may indirectly interfere with immune functioning.

At this point, the contextual speculations are only that. These studies have established correlation. However, no cause-effect relationship between antibiotics and cancer has yet been established.


Undoubtedly it is best to handle suspected infections through natural means and without the use of antibiotics. A diet that provides maximum nutrition, broad spectrum vitamin and mineral support, regular exercise, fresh air, and stress reduction go a long way toward keeping you healthy so that antibiotics are never needed. Eliminating foods and other products that contain artificial ingredients that must be detoxified by the liver is another good strategy. Keeping your intestinal tract well populated with friendly bacteria by using a probiotic will help keep immune function strong and make sure that nutrients from food and supplements are assimilated.

If you feel sickness coming on, it is best to act right away, before an infection becomes established. Up to 10 grams of Vitamin C per day can be taken by an adult without side effects such as diarrhea and excessive urination according to vitamin authority Earl Mindell. Colloidal silver taken for a few days at the first sign of an infection can work wonders.

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About the author:

Barbara is a school psychologist and the author of Dividend Capture, a book on personal finance. She is a breast cancer survivor using bioidentical hormone therapy, and a passionate advocate of natural health with hundreds of articles on many aspects of health and wellness. She is the editor and publisher of AlignLife's Health Secrets Newsletter.

See other articles by the Barbara Minton here:

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