Less Oxygen, More Cancer?

Can a sleep disorder increase your risk developing of cancer? A new study published in the European Respiratory Journal says yes.

According to the recent study, women who are living with sleep apnea have an elevated risk of developing cancer compared to men with the condition.

More than 22 million Americans are living with obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, according to the American Sleep Apnea Association.

People who are living with OSA experience interruptions in their breathing during sleep.

‘The number of interruptions in breathing can range from 30 to more than a hundred per night depending on the person or severity of the condition,’ said Dr. Sean Endsley, a Waco, Texas, dentist.

People living with OSA experience daytime fatigue, snoring or gasping for air, headaches and migraines, and mood swings.

Sleep apnea can also affect cognition, problem solving and memory.

The study analyzed 20,000 adults from the European Sleep Apnea Database. The researchers found that among the records they reviewed, 2 percent of the group had a cancer diagnosis in their medical history.

Earlier studies have also shown that individuals living with sleep apnea have a higher risk of developing cancer.

The researchers on this most recent study found that women, in particular, had two to three times the risk of being diagnosed with cancer than men.

Researchers do not yet know what the link is between cancer and OSA, but one of the theories behind the connection could be that the lack of oxygen caused by sleep apnea may weaken the immune system or trigger cancer development due to oxidative stress on the body.

People living with sleep apnea experience changes in health, including high blood pressure, an increased risk of diabetes, changes in liver function, an increased risk of heart attack and stroke, and weight gain or obesity.

‘Most people living with sleep apnea have changes in their health that aren’t immediately identified as a symptom of a sleep disorder,’ Endsley said.

This means that when health concerns like high blood pressure or diabetes develop, patients are often put on medications that can treat the symptom, but not the cause of the problem.

‘This means that the problem persists and the patient’s health conditions worsen,’ Endsley said.

Men are two to three times more likely to develop sleep apnea than women. Women can increase their risk of developing the condition if they are overweight, and the risk of developing sleep apnea goes up after menopause.

Source: The Philly Voice. Sleep apnea can increase cancer risk in women, study finds. 15 August 2019.