The growing threat of antibiotic resistance may not be the only reason we need to watch our use of antibiotics. A study of more than 10,000 women finds the commonly used medicine may increase the risk of breast cancer.
"The more antibiotics a woman used the higher likelihood she had of developing breast cancer. However, with that said it's very important to note that we can't say from this study that antibiotics actually caused the increased breast cancer risk," Christine Velicer, Ph.D, a Group Health Cooperative Researcher says.
Specifically, the study found over an average of 17 years, women who took antibiotics for more than 500 days, or had more than 25 prescriptions had twice the risk of breast cancer as women who didn't take the medicine. The risk was smaller, but still there for women who rarely took the medicine.
This is shocking news to patients like Joan Dressler who takes antibiotics regularly and has a family history of breast cancer. "When he shared the news I of course thought of myself and my future and looked backwards and said my goodness I've been doing this for 30 years, and I'm not sure what that exactly means," Dressler says.
While the study suggests a relationship - it does not show that antibiotics cause cancer. "But I think that we should take this with caution also because it may not be the actual effect of the antibiotic but maybe because a woman has some inflammation going on within her body that may be signaling more changes especially in the breast area," Katherine Lee, a Cleveland Clinic Researcher says.
Bottom line say experts and researchers - more studies are needed to determine what role antibiotics may play in the risk of breast cancer - but note that these findings provide more reason for everyone to use antibiotics more wisely.