By Marta Curral. | According to data from the Spanish Association Against Cancer, cases of cancer in Spain have steadily increased in recent years, reaching 290,175 diagnoses in 2022, an increase of 1.34% compared to the previous year. Although the causes of cancer are diverse and, in many cases, unknown, it has been shown that some drugs commonly used in our country are related to this disease. In particular, the contraceptive pill, Omeprazole and antibiotics have been the subject of several studies due to their possible connection with this disease.
The contraceptive pill contains a synthetic variant of estrogen and progestogens in different proportions, depending on the formula, and has been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), dependent on the World Health Organization (WHO), as a first-degree drug. carcinogenic. Although the risk is considered low and decreases after discontinuing use, there is sufficient evidence that its consumption may be related to said pathology.
Most studies linking the contraceptive pill to breast cancer are observational, such as the analysis of data from more than 150,000 women who participated in 54 epidemiological samples. According to the National Cancer Institute of the United States, these studies showed that women who used oral contraceptives have a 7% higher relative risk of developing breast cancer compared to those who never took the pill.
Despite the worrying numbers, it is important to be cautious in the conclusions. Breast cancer is the most diagnosed form of this disease in women in Spain, and 35,001 new cases are expected to be diagnosed in 2023. Although these numbers are alarming, it is important to note that mortality has decreased in recent years and survival has increased to 86%, thanks in part to earlier diagnosis and more effective treatments. In addition, the onset of the disease is related to factors such as age, hereditary genetics, alcohol consumption and obesity.
Omeprazole, a drug widely used in Spain to relieve stomach problems, has been identified in several studies as a possible carcinogen. It is part of the proton pump inhibitor (PPI) drugs, considered the most effective in reducing the secretion of gastric acids. While they are safe and effective, there is data to suggest that long-term use of these drugs can carry significant health risks, such as stomach tumors.
A study published in 2017 by the British Journal of Medicine, prepared by University College London and the University of Hong Kong, established a relationship between the consumption of PPIs and an increased risk of gastric cancer. The analyzed sample included 63,000 individuals who had overcome the action of Helicobacter pylori. The results indicated that those who were treated with this group of drugs were twice as likely to develop gastric cancer. These findings have raised concern in the medical community and have led to the recommendation to limit the use of PPIs in the short term, only in cases of medical necessity and under medical supervision.
However, the scientific evidence on the association between proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) and stomach cancer is not strong enough. Indeed, a meta-analysis published in Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics last year acknowledges that PPIs are taken in excess and their side effects should not be overlooked, but it reduces the strength of the claims about omeprazole in particular.
Stomach cancer is the form of this pathology that has most reduced its mortality in recent decades in Europe, but 6,913 cases were still diagnosed in Spain in 2022. One of the risk factors is chronic infection with Helicobacter pylori.
The responsible consumption of medicines is of vital importance in relation to cancer prevention. Behind the birth control pill and omeprazole, antibiotics have been touted as a possible risk factor for colon cancer. The scientific community has been asking for years for the responsible use of antibiotics only under medical prescription, mainly to prevent the appearance of bacteria resistant to these treatments. Now, that same advice is amplified due to the possible interaction of antibiotics with colorectal pathology, a hypothesis supported by two studies.
Studies linking various drugs to cancer
Two studies have supported the possible relationship between antibiotic use and colorectal cancer. The first one, carried out by British researchers, analyzed 8,000 patients with colorectal cancer and 30,000 healthy people. They found that those under age 50 with a history of antibiotic use had a 49% higher risk of colon cancer but not rectal cancer.
The second study, carried out by Swedish scientists, looked at 40,000 people with colorectal cancer and 200,000 people without cancer and found that those who took antibiotics for more than 6 months had a 17% higher risk of one of these types. . These findings underscore the importance of appropriate and responsible use of antibiotics to prevent cancer.
It is important to emphasize that the studies do not question the importance of these drugs for the treatment of certain infections, but emphasize their responsible consumption. The reason why they can be linked to cancer is their ability to destroy bacteria, including those that are beneficial to our body and with which we live in symbiosis, the microbiota.
In addition, there are other risk factors such as obesity, lack of exercise, consumption of alcohol, red meat and tobacco. Colorectal cancer is the type of cancer that registers the most new cases in Spain, with more than 40,000 new diagnoses per year. Therefore, it is essential to lead a healthy lifestyle and the proper use of medication to prevent this disease.