Antibiotics and Cancer

A recent study on antibiotics was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (“Antibiotic use in relation to the risk of breast cancer” (JAMA, 2004; 291: 827-835).

The study concludes that antibiotic use is associated with an increased rate of breast cancer, although researchers could not identify a specific mechanism through which cancer might be caused.

It is interesting to note that this study relates to all antibiotics and not to a specific type. Considering the huge differences in chemical makeup between different classes of antibiotics, it is likely that cancer is a result of something all antibiotics do to the body, and not of a specific chemical they contain. In addition, it would seem odd that antibiotics cause breast cancer, a hormone-related cancer, and not other types of cancer.

This study especially captured my attention because of information contained in the book “The Circadian Prescription” by Sidney Baker, MD. Dr. Baker is a respected authority on integrative medicine and founder of Defeat Autism Now! (DAN) and his book, published in the early 1990s, offers a precise explanation of how antibiotics can lead to breast cancer and in Dr. Baker’s opinion prostate cancer as well.

To understand Dr. Baker’s explanation it is important to know that all of us were “designed” to host a dense population of bacteria often referred to as “healthy flora” or more simply “good bugs” in our digestive tract. The numbers of these inhabitants of our digestive system are astounding. We used to hear estimates of billions, or hundreds of billions, but then it was trillions and hundreds of trillions. Apparently, the latest consensus is that they number in the quadrillions! Considering that our entire bodies are made up of one hundred or so trillion cells, there are clearly more bacteria in us than human cells.

These bugs are not just casual residents in our bodies; they play important roles and contribute in a very significant way to our overall health. We rely on them to produce certain
vitamins and other nutrients that we need but which are not contained in sufficient amounts in our food.

It’s a perfect relationship: the bugs live on fiber and other parts of our food that we cannot digest and, in turn, they produce fatty acids and vitamins (such as biotin) that are essential
to our health. Some of these bacterial substances also help regulate our hormone chemistry and thereby protect us from hormone-related cancers.

But what happens if the “good bugs” are somehow turned into “bad bugs?” Now we may harbor bacteria and also possibly yeast that, instead of working for us work against us, waging chemical warfare on our bodies and even our brains. Instead of producing vitamins for us they produce poisons. Instead of helping regulate our hormones they harm them, introducing hormone-like substances in our bodies that can wreak havoc with our own hormones and increase our risk of cancer, including breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men.

In a nutshell, antibiotics are the prime cause of damage to our intestinal flora. Antibiotics are designed to kill bacteria, but in addition to killing their intended targets, they also kill the
bacteria that contribute to our health, thus enabling opportunistic “bad bugs” or yeast cells to take their place.

According to Dr. Baker, just a single dose of antibiotics can damage our flora to such an extent that it could take months or years to recover, even if we are taking specific action to
promote such recovery.

We all know that antibiotics can be lifesaving if used appropriately, but knowing their darker side helps us understand why they should be used only when strictly necessary. When they must be used, Dr. Baker recommends consuming plenty of fiber to limit the damage by feeding the good bugs, plus yogurt containing live “healthy” bacteria. If damage is thought to be extensive due to long-term or frequent use of antibiotics over the course of many years, more drastic corrective measures may be needed and it would be advisable to work with a doctor or a nutritionist experienced in this area.

Comments are closed.