WEDNESDAY, Oct. 8, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- A new study suggests that the type of laxative a person takes might be a factor in their odds for colon cancer. The research indicates that fiber-based laxatives are associated with a lower risk of colorectal cancer, while non-fiber laxatives are linked with a higher risk.
The study could only show an association between laxative types and colon cancer risk, it could not prove cause-and-effect, and experts stress that more study is needed. Still, the researchers believe the findings are important because about 20 percent of Americans use laxatives.
According to a team led by Jessica Citronberg, a predoctoral fellow at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, non-fiber laxatives are the most widely used in the United States and work by forcing the colon to contract. On the other hand, fiber-based laxatives boost the water content and bulk of the stool in order to move it through the colon, they said.
The new study involved data on more than 75,000 adults, aged 50 to 76, in western Washington state. The investigators found that people who used fiber-based laxatives at least four days a week for four years were 56 percent less likely to develop colorectal cancer than those who didn't use them.
In contrast, people who used non-fiber laxatives five or more times a year had a 49 percent increased risk for colorectal cancer, according to the findings published in the Oct. 7 issue of The American Journal of Gastroenterology.