We've heard lots of warnings about taking too many antibiotics, that we can take so much that we build a resistance to those drugs, until they just don't work anymore.
A study out on Monday brings up a surprising new concern -- a link to breast cancer. After following more than 10,000 women for 17 years, the study, in part by the National Institutes of Health, found women who took antibiotics for more than 500 days, or had more than 25 prescriptions, had twice the risk of breast cancer as those who did not take antibiotics regularly.
Actually, there are a number of theories that suggest antibiotic use could lead to cancer possibly by interfering with the metabolism of foods which protect against cancer or by impacting the body's immune response. So, while this newest study suggests there is 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," says Katherine Lee, Cleveland Clinic researcher.
By the way, the study showed that no one antibiotic seemed risker than an other, and health experts agree that more study is needed. But for now, researchers say this does not mean we should avoid antibiotics, but it does give us one more reason why we should use them more wisely, instead of asking for antibiotics every time we go to the doctor.
The study was conducted by researchers at Group Health Cooperative's Center for Health Studies, the University of Washington, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and the National Cancer Institute and is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. An estimated 40,110 women will die of the disease this year.