The Link Between Sleep Apnea and Cancer: What’s the Risk?
Medically known as sleep-disordered breathing (SDB), sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that causes snoring, fatigue, and dissatisfying sleep. It is estimated to affect 28 million people in the United States alone, and is often left untreated because people are not aware that they have it. This may in turn lead to obesity and diabetes, which can pose serious health risks as you age.
Unfortunately, it turns out that sleep apnea may lead to yet another problem: cancer. Previously, sleep apnea has been linked to increased risks of hypertension, cardiovascular disease, depression, and a shorter lifespan, but recent studies have concluded that there is a definitive correlation between cancer and sleep apnea.
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health have found that the incidence of cancer-related deaths within patients that have sleep apnea is close to five times higher. This is because people who have sleep apnea get an inadequate supply of oxygen during sleep if they are not properly treated. It has been found that this lack of oxygen can lead to increased vascular growth and tumor growth. The tumor growth is particularly important, as malignant tumors can cause cancer if left untreated. To conduct this research, the mortality data of 1,522 subjects was examined over a 22-year period. These subjects were all a part of the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort, a random selection of state and public employees.
Causation vs Correlation
Fortunately, while the study did find that sleep apnea is definitively correlated with cancer, it doesn’t suggest that sleep apnea directly causes cancer. The correlation is weaker than the relationship linking cardiovascular problems and sleep apnea, which is a good sign for those who have sleep apnea and are already under treatment. However, this correlation is strong and is not to be taken lightly.
Schedule a sleep study with a medical professional today if you suspect that you or a loved one may be suffering from sleep apnea. Being deprived of oxygen during sleep can lead to long-lasting health problems, and if left untreated, can promote dangerous and life-threatening tumor growth.