The colon cancer-antibiotics connectionTaking antibiotics over the course of your life often contributes to a number of health problems, including bacterial imbalances that deplete the “good” and “bad” bacteria in your gut.

A study presented at last year’s annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology concluded that long-term and repeated exposure to some antibiotics modestly may increase your risk of colon cancer.

Researchers used the Health Improvement Network, a large population-based database of patients in the United Kingdom, to access the records of colon cancer patients.

Overall, scientists compared the health of some 22,000 colon cancer patients to nearly 86,000 healthy patients over a six-year period, taking into account risk factors for colon cancer (smoking, obesity, alcohol consumption and diabetes). Then, they tracked the use of antibiotics for at least six months prior to a colon cancer diagnosis.

While there was no connection between anti-viral or anti-fungal drugs, there was a link to some antibiotics, including metronidazole, quinolones and penicillins. Exposure to those antibiotics increased a patient’s risk of colon cancer by up to 11 percent.

Of those antibiotics, exposure to penicillin proved to be the most problematic. The risk of colon cancer continued for patients taking antibiotics for up to a decade before their diagnosis. The possible cause, according to researchers: penicillin has an effect on gut bacteria.

“Certain bacteria might promote a pro-inflammatory environment,” co-investigator Dr. Yu-Xiao Yang said to ClinicalOncology News. “Others may alter or generate toxins that might potentially be carcinogenic or might transform certain dietary or intestinal content into carcinogenic components.

“Looking at what are more biologically plausible effects of antibiotics on colorectal cancer risk, we should be looking at longer-term exposure, or exposure in the more distant past.”

(One of the side effects connected with taking penicillin, according to the Mayo Clinic: A greater likelihood for people with stomach or intestinal diseases to develop colitis.)

The best thing you can do to protect the health of you and your family when antibiotics are prescribed: Take a probiotic like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic or EndoMune Advanced Junior (for kids). Probiotics with multiple strains of beneficial bacteria like EndoMune protect the healthy balance of bacteria in the gut.

Taking a probiotic about two hours after an antibiotic will reduce the risk of these drugs depleting the live, beneficial bacteria that protect your gut.

Another safety tip: Avoid using antibacterial soaps and personal hygiene products (body soaps, toothpaste and cosmetics) that contain triclosan, a broad-spectrum antimicrobial compound also linked to bacterial resistance.