Using antibiotics after breast cancer may reduce survival

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A recent study by researchers at Stanford Medicine suggests that women with triple-negative breast cancer who receive multiple antibiotics within three years of diagnosis are more likely to experience disease recurrence and death from cancer than those who take fewer antibiotics.

The effect on survival was not due to differences in cancer severity. Each additional antibiotic increased the risk of death by 5% to 18% relative to patients who were not prescribed antibiotics.

Therefore, researchers suggest that we should consider treating infections in a way that does not raise the risk of cancer recurrence.

The study, published in Nature Communications, studied 772 women diagnosed between January 2000 and May 2014, and treated at Stanford Health Care or Palo Alto Medical Foundation.

The study found that treatment with antimicrobials, which include antibiotics to treat bacterial infections and antifungals to treat fungal infections, was associated with a decrease in the number of lymphocytes circulating in a patient’s blood.

Lymphocyte numbers have been shown to correlate with response to treatment and overall survival in people with breast cancer.

The researchers believe the link between antimicrobials and lymphocyte numbers lies in the gut. It’s well established that antibiotic treatment can be especially harsh on the bacteria that carpet our intestines.

These bacteria help us digest food and affect many aspects of our health, including how our immune systems respond to emerging threats like infections or cancer.

The study showed that increased total numbers and types of antibiotics prescribed for each patient substantially increased the risk of disease recurrence and death from cancer.

While the risk associated with each prescription was small, the risk of death from breast cancer increased not just with the total number of prescriptions a woman had received since diagnosis but also with the number of unique drugs to which she was exposed.

The data from the study didn’t include information about the patients’ gut microbiomes, which are usually obtained through fecal samples.

The researchers hope to design a new study that directly correlates gut microbiome composition with lymphocyte numbers and long-term cancer survival.

The study is not the first to show that antibiotic use may affect cancer survival. Other studies have also hinted at an association between gut microbiome health and responses to cancer treatments.

The researchers caution against applying the findings of the study to any one person, but they suggest that these findings suggest a link between antibiotic use, the immune system, and breast cancer survival, which warrants further study.

How to prevent breast cancer

Breast cancer is a disease that develops when cells in the breast grow out of control. It is important to be aware of breast cancer risk factors and to take steps to reduce your risk.

Maintain a healthy weight: Being overweight or obese can increase the risk of breast cancer, especially after menopause.

Stay physically active: Regular physical activity can help reduce the risk of breast cancer. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercises, such as brisk walking, most days of the week.

Limit alcohol intake: Drinking alcohol can increase the risk of breast cancer. Women should limit their alcohol intake to no more than one drink per day.

Quit smoking: Smoking is associated with a higher risk of breast cancer, especially in younger, premenopausal women.

Breastfeed if possible: Breastfeeding for at least several months can help reduce the risk of breast cancer.

Consider hormone therapy: If you are going through menopause and experiencing severe symptoms such as hot flashes, talk to your doctor about hormone therapy. Hormone therapy can increase the risk of breast cancer, but it may be appropriate in certain situations.

Get regular screenings: Mammograms are an important tool for detecting breast cancer early. Women should talk to their doctors about when to begin getting mammograms and how often to get them.

Be aware of your family history: Women with a family history of breast cancer may be at higher risk themselves. Talk to your doctor about whether you should undergo genetic testing or other screening measures.

Consider lifestyle changes: Eating a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein sources, as well as reducing stress levels, can also help reduce the risk of breast cancer.

If you care about health, please read studies about vitamin D deficiency linked to chronic inflammation, and vitamin D supplements could strongly reduce cancer death.

For more information about health, please see recent studies about new way to halt excessive inflammation, and results showing how to lower heart disease and breast cancer risk at the same time.

The study was conducted by Julia D. Ransohoff et al and published in Nature Communications.

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