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Original article
Oral antibiotic use and risk of colorectal cancer in the United Kingdom, 1989–2012: a matched case–control study

Abstract

Background Microbiome dysbiosis predisposes to colorectal cancer (CRC), but a population-based study of oral antibiotic exposure and risk patterns is lacking.

Objective To assess the association between oral antibiotic use and CRC risk.

Design A matched case–control study (incident CRC cases and up to five matched controls) was performed using the Clinical Practice Research Datalink from 1989 to 2012.

Results 28 980 CRC cases and 137 077 controls were identified. Oral antibiotic use was associated with CRC risk, but effects differed by anatomical location. Antibiotic use increased the risk of colon cancer in a dose-dependent fashion (ptrend <0.001). The risk was observed after minimal use, and was greatest in the proximal colon and with antibiotics with anti-anaerobic activity. In contrast, an inverse association was detected between antibiotic use and rectal cancers (ptrend=0.003), particularly with length of antibiotic exposure >60 days (adjusted OR (aOR), 0.85, 95% CI 0.79 to 0.93) as compared with no antibiotic exposure. Penicillins, particularly ampicillin/amoxicillin increased the risk of colon cancer (aOR=1.09 (1.05 to 1.13)), whereas tetracyclines reduced the risk of rectal cancer (aOR=0.90 (0.84 to 0.97)). Significant interactions were detected between antibiotic use and tumour location (colon vs rectum, pinteraction<0.001; proximal colon versus distal colon, pinteraction=0.019). The antibiotic–cancer association was found for antibiotic exposure occurring >10 years before diagnosis (aOR=1.17 (1.06 to 1.31)).

Conclusion Oral antibiotic use is associated with an increased risk of colon cancer but a reduced risk of rectal cancer. This effect heterogeneity may suggest differences in gut microbiota and carcinogenesis mechanisms along the lower intestinal tract.

  • colorectal cancer
  • antibiotics
  • tumor location
  • cancer risk
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