Colon cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States. The American Cancer Society estimates 104,270 new cases of colon cancer in the U.S. for 2021.
The overall risk for developing colorectal cancer is about 1 in 23 for men and 1 in 25 for women.
Although CRC rates have dropped by 1% each year in older adults from 2013 through 2017, the American Cancer Society reports a 2% increase in people younger than 50 and 1% increase in people age 50-64 each year from 2012 through 2016.
The increased rate of early onset CRC resulted in the American Cancer Society lowering the screening age for colorectal cancer from 50 to 45 in 2018.
Risk factors include a family history of colorectal cancer or multiple polyps (familial polyposis, Gardner’s, Turcot’s, Peutz-Jeghers), a past history of polyps, inflammatory bowel disease, & female genital CA. Lifestyle risk factors include being overweight or obese, smoking, moderate to heavy alcohol use, not being physically active, and unhealthy diets.
A new study shared at the European Society of Medical Oncology World Congress on Gastrointestinal Cancer 2021 may add a new risk factor to the list: antibiotic use. The study reports a possible link to a person’s exposure to antibiotics and an increased risk of colorectal cancer, especially early onset CRC.
The study observed two age groups, 50 and younger as well as 50 and older, and found an association for both age groups, particularly among those under age 50.
This is the first study specifically investigating early-onset colorectal cancer (EOCC) and antibiotic usage.
Unnecessary Use of Antibiotics
Antibiotics overuse has been a concern nationally and internationally for years. The CDC published data in 2016 stating at least 30 percent of antibiotics prescribed in the United States are unnecessary.
Furthermore, the National Institute of Health (NIH) confirms antibiotics such as erythromycin and penicillin can kill off beneficial microorganisms in the GI tract.
To mitigate risk in early-onset colorectal cancer, healthcare professionals are urged avoid unnecessary antibiotic prescribing – which can be very challenging when patients demand antibiotic treatment. Many over burdened healthcare providers find it harder to deny patients antibiotics they think they need at the end of their shift when they are more exhausted.
This calls for a team effort to support physicians when denying patients unnecessary antibiotics, and a greater effort towards educating patients about appropriate antibiotic use.
This effort goes hand in hand with the less publicized public health threat: antibiotic resistance. The CDC fears that the COVID-19 pandemic has set back progress to fight antibiotic resistance.
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