Antibiotics have admittedly been a huge step forward in medicine, saving countless lives from infections which killed many people in the past, infections like pneumonia or wound infections secondary to surgery or trauma. However, in these past 70 years, antibiotics have been greatly overprescribed, even for viral infections on which they have no therapeutic effect. People also are exposed to antibiotics used in conventionally raised meat and dairy products.
The result of this overexposure has been severe. To begin with, medicine is now seeing the rise of “superbugs”, bacteria like MRSA which has become resistant to most antibiotics and can be very difficult to treat. Many people are aware of this, but are less cognizant of the fact that research is also uncovering a link between antibiotic use and cancer.
Recent AMA Study’s Disturbing Results
One disturbing study, who results were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), found that antibiotic use in women was linked to higher rates of breast cancer: more specifically, it uncovered the fact that women who, over a 17 year period, took anywhere from 1 to 25 courses of antibiotics had a one and a half times greater risk for breast cancer development than women who took few or no antibiotics.
The National Cancer Institute, a division of the National Institute of Health, a government body concerned with public health issues, who co-sponsored this study, is quick to point out that this research is not saying that antibiotics cause cancer. It is simply pointing out that a longer or extensive use antibiotics can make someone more vulnerable to certain forms of cancer.
Finnish Study Finds Similar Results
While it is certainly true that more research needs to be done to uncover more knowledge about the possible link between antibiotic use and breast cancer, it is only fair to point out that this AMA study is not the only one to suspect this link. A second group of researchers, this time out of Finland, also found that women who took antibiotics had a higher risk of breast cancer. Furthermore, they found that there was a direction correlation between these two factors – in other words, the more antibiotics that women took, the higher their chances of breast cancer would be.
Two studies are simply not enough to firmly establish this link between cancer and antibiotics. Indeed, It is clear to many doctors that further studies need to be conducted to start filling in the gaps of knowledge that the medical community has regarding the link between cancer and antibiotic use. It is also an excellent reason for patients to think carefully before requesting or accepting antibiotics from their doctors and carefully weighing out its long-term risks and benefits.
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