Gender Matters

Research published in the European Respiratory Journal found that women with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) were more likely to be diagnosed with cancer than men living with the condition.

The study, which consisted of more than 19,000 participants, also suggests that people who have more frequent obstructions to their airway and whose blood oxygen saturation levels drop below 90 percent were more likely to face a cancer diagnosis than individuals without the condition.

OSA is the most common form of sleep apnea and is characterized by partial or complete blockages to the airway.

‘When the airway is blocked, the most common causes are the tongue falling back to block the throat, or the muscles of the throat relaxing and falling down to stop air from flowing into the lungs,’ said Dr. Sean Endsley, a Waco, Texas, dentist.

When the airway is closed entirely or even partially blocked frequently during sleep, the level of oxygen in the blood is decreased.

‘When oxygen is reduced, there is significant stress on the body,’ Endsley said.

The most common symptoms of sleep apnea include snoring, difficulty staying asleep and daytime fatigue.

‘Many people living with sleep apnea also report weight gain, headaches and mood swings,’ Endsley said.

When oxygen levels drop below 90 percent, the risk of cancer increases, according to the study.

The research also revealed that the risk of cancer was higher among women with OSA than their male counterparts.

The study is the first to examine how gender affects the link between cancer and OSA.

During the study, the researchers reviewed data from 19,556 people included in the European Sleep Apnoea Database (ESADA), an international study that includes patients with OSA that aims to find a link between the severity of OSA, low blood oxygen levels and the presence of cancer.

There were 5,789 women and 13,767 men in the study. Participants were assessed for age, BMI, level of alcohol consumption and smoking status — all factors in an increased risk of developing cancer.

The information collected from the ESADA participants revealed that 388 people (2 percent) had been diagnosed with serious cancer, of which 160 were women and 228 were men.

Participants who were diagnosed with cancer were generally over 50 years of age and less overweight.

The most common type of cancer among women was breast cancer, and men were most frequently diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Source: Medical Xpress. Women with sleep apnea are more likely to be diagnosed with cancer than men. 21 May 2020.