Less Oxygen, More Cancer?

A new study of nearly 34,000 individuals has found a connection between obstructive sleep apnea and the risk of developing cancer.

Results of the study revealed that it was the chronic low blood oxygen levels attributed to sleep apnea that contributed to the higher cancer risk.

Study participants underwent sleep studies at four large Ontario academic hospitals.

While the connection was made between obstructive sleep apnea and a higher chance of developing cancer, the researchers believe epidemiological evidence linking OSA and cancer is still not entirely clear.

The study examined the link between individual clinical and polysomnographic data, the range of data taken from the participants collected through diagnostic technologies used in overnight sleep studies. The data came from sleep clinics and health administrative databases across Canada’s provinces. Information regarding cancer type and cancer status was collected from the Ontario Cancer Registry.

Individuals who were free of cancer when the study began were analyzed further to identify the severity of their OSA at the beginning of the study in their followup for cancer development. The researchers also looked at the participants’ age, sex, alcohol use, smoking, obesity and other health issues and co-morbidities.

The researchers found that severe cases of OSA, which are classified as more than 30 breathing interruptions per hour during sleep, saw a 15 to 30 percent increase in developing cancer compared to participants without OSA.

The study also looked at the specific cancers related to breathing interruption and found colorectal, kidney, lung and smoking-related cancer subtypes were prominent in the participant groups.

‘Sleep apnea has been connected to a variety of cancers and potentially fatal illnesses,’ said Dr. Richard Armstrong of Legends Dental in Waco, Texas.

Sleep apnea affects more than 22 million Americans, many of whom are untreated.

‘A large percentage of the population do not know they have the condition until other illnesses are diagnosed,’ Armstrong said.

Source: Healio. Risk for incident cancer rises with severity of obstructive sleep apnea. 24 June 2020.