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Did your doctor give you breast cancer?

By Lee Euler / January 12, 2011

New Breast Cancer Threat:
Your doctor should have warned you about this…

It’s no secret that overuse of antibiotics has a direct connection to the development of drug-resistant germs.

But one study suggests that loading up on germ-killing medicines could have even more dire health consequences.

According to a study published in the February 2004 Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), prolonged use of antibiotics could actually increase your risk of breast cancer!

The media coverage on these findings created quite a stir when the study results were first released. But if you missed it, you need to read this…

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The study authors were from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), Group Health Cooperative (GHC), the University of Washington, Seattle, and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center.

The researchers analyzed trends over a 17-year period for women who:

1) Had been prescribed antibiotics for 500 days or more,

2) Had more than 25 antibiotic prescriptions during their lifetimes, or

3) Took no antibiotics.

Study results suggested the risk of a breast cancer diagnosis was nearly double for women given antibiotic prescriptions compared to women who took no antibiotics!

Researchers said women who were prescribed the medications were about 1.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than women who didn’t take any antibiotics. The authors found this higher risk across all types of antibiotics studied.

They also noted a smaller risk of breast cancer among the women who took no antibiotics. This held true as well for women who took antibiotics for fewer days.

Drug abuse the legal way

If you’re wondering how anyone could take antibiotics for more than 500 days or have more than 25 prescriptions, I’ve got news for you: a LOT of people have used antibiotics that much and more.

For decades doctors have handed out these drugs like candy at Halloween. They prescribed antibiotics to young people with acne. Sometimes the kids were on them for years. The drugs don’t clear up the skin, but never mind that. Doctors also prescribe the drugs to babies and young children with colds (the drugs do no good — colds are a viral infection).

And of course it seems like half the kids in the country have an ear infection. (It’s been my experience that drugs do little good for recurring ear infections.) And the half that don’t have ear infections are getting antibiotics for strep infections — a disease that used to be rare when I was a child.

Yes, plenty of women have taken enough antibiotics to be at increased risk of breast cancer.

So what is the supposed link between the drugs and increased cancer risk?

According to an NCI fact sheet, antibiotics may affect intestinal bacteria and thereby prevent proper digestion of foods that protect you from cancer. In my opinion, this is probably a small part of the story. Healthy intestinal bacteria provide a whole range of valuable benefits. They’re vital to good health. Heavy antibiotic usage effectively wipes them out. This can lead to lifetime gastrointestinal problems ranging from chronic diarrhea to irritable bowel syndrome to chronic constipation.

Antibiotics also can affect your immune response and your body’s response to inflammation. Both of these conditions can be related to the development of cancer.

But antibiotics don’t cause every case of breast cancer, right?

That’s true. NCI noted that other risk factors could explain the increased risk—including:

1) Breast density

2) Hormone therapy

3) Lifestyle factors

4) Menstrual and reproductive history

The researchers designed the JAMA study to minimize the influence of these other factors.

To account for some of these factors, they matched “case” participants—or those diagnosed with breast cancer—with “control” subjects who did not have breast cancer. The idea was to compare women whose risk factors were roughly the same EXCEPT for antibiotic use.

For example, 23.7 percent of “case” women with cancer had a body mass index of more than 30.0 kg/m2. The researchers compared the results these women experienced with 21.8 percent of the “control” group who had the same body mass index but did not have cancer.

This helped lower the chance that the higher risk of breast cancer in the case group was due to obesity rather than antibiotic use.

The researchers admitted that these study results do not mean antibiotics can be named as a direct cause of breast cancer.

In an NCI statement, researcher and study co-author Stephen H. Taplin, M.D. cautioned that these results “only show that there is an association between the two. More studies must be conducted to determine whether there is indeed a direct cause-and-effect relationship.”

This is the “correlation problem” that I’ve mentioned in previous issues. Just because two things are found side by side doesn’t prove one caused the other. But it DOES mean there’s good reason to think so. Even though the jury is still out, if I were on it I’d vote for the theory that antibiotics are guilty of causing breast cancer.

So don’t raise your juice glass and swallow any celebratory penicillin pills just yet!

Here’s why taking too many antibiotics is still risky business…

An important thing to understand is that antibiotics are drugs used to fight bacterial infections, such as strep throat. They’re absolutely useless for treating viral infections, such as cold and flu bugs.

Many people think of penicillin when they hear the word ‘antibiotic’—and for good reason. Alexander Fleming discovered it in 1927 and it became the first antibiotic drug.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the first use of antibiotics in the 1940s transformed medical care. The CDC credits these drugs with dramatically reducing illness and death from infectious diseases.

But you probably know what folks say about too much of a good thing…

As doctors increased the number of antibiotic prescriptions they wrote—the drugs started to become less effective at clobbering certain bacteria and microbes. The bugs developed resistance.

This “antibiotic resistance” occurs when bacteria change in some way to reduce the effectiveness of drugs designed to battle infections. The germs can survive and even multiply, to worsen a condition.

In fact, the CDC now reports that almost every type of bacteria has become less responsive to antibiotic treatment. This has created a health crisis that will grow steadily worse in the coming years. Because doctors and patients alike abused antibiotics instead of using them for true emergencies, we no longer enjoy the protection of these valuable medicines when a true need arises.

Overuse of antibiotics has bred new generations of “super bugs.” These antibiotic resistant bacterial infections spread quickly—and can threaten the community with mysterious, new diseases that are difficult and expensive to cure and treat.

If you come down with an infection that is resistant to a certain medicine, it becomes far easier for you to pass that infection to another person. The CDC says some of these illnesses can cause disability or even death.

Now don’t believe NCI hasn’t totally become a traitor to the drug industry…

Their position is that you shouldn’t completely avoid antibiotics for bacterial infections. But they do encourage wise use of these drugs only for bacterial infections. That means doctors shouldn’t prescribe these drugs for viral infections like colds or flu — and you shouldn’t ask. All too often a doctor prescribes these drugs because the patient is begging him to “do something.”

Best regards,

Lee Euler,
Publisher

References:
1 National Cancer Institute. 2004, Feb. 16). Study shows link between antibiotic use and increased risk of breast cancer. Retrieved October 9, 2010 from
http://www.cancer.gov/newscenter/pressreleases/2004/antibiotics/print?page=&keyword=
2 National Cancer Institute. 2004. Questions and Answers: Study shows link between antibiotic use and increased risk of breast cancer. Retrieved October 9, 2010 from http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/risk/breast-antibiotics
3 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2009. Antibiotic Resistance Questions and Answers. Retrieved October 9, 2010 from
http://www.cdc.gov/getsmart/antibiotic-use/anitbiotic-resistance-faqs.html#c
About the author

Lee Euler

Hi I'm Lee Euler, I’ve spent over a decade investigating every possible way a person can beat cancer. In fact, our commitment to defeating cancer has made us the world’s #1 publisher of information about Alternative Cancer Treatments -- with over 20 books and 700 newsletters on the subject. If you haven't heard about all your cancer options, or if you want to make sure you don’t miss even one answer to this terrible disease, then join our newsletter. When you do, I'll keep you informed each week about the hundreds of alternative cancer treatments that people are using to cure cancer all over the world.

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