Sleep Apnea: Disorder Linked to Higher Cancer Death


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Sleep apnea, a disorder which occurs when breathing is interrupted during slumber, has been linked to increased chances of cancer death in human beings. According to a recent study, those suffering from severe apnea -- 30 or more instances in an hour of sleep -- were at a much higher risk to die from cancer than those without.

The study, which was performed at the University of Barcelona in Spain, found that mice, when deprived of oxygen for short periods of time, were far more susceptible to cancer death. In order to test this theory with humans, researchers poured over data from the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort, which has gathered sleep-oriented information from nearly 1,500 participants. After making necessary adjustments for race, sex, age, etc., scientists confirmed that cancer-stricken humans were more likely to die from the disease if they suffered from sleep apnea.

Individuals who experience mild sleep apnea are thought to have a 10 percent increased risk of cancer death, while those with severe disorders could have a 4.8 times increased chance of dying from cancer.

"This goes along with the link between sleep apnea and pretty much every chronic medical condition out there," explained Dr. Steven Park, a sleep specialist at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. However, Park also remarked that the results of this particular study need to be verified by other studies.

"That is really striking,” said Dr. F. Javier Nieto, one of the study’s authors. "It could be something else, but it’s hard to imagine that something we didn’t control for is causing this."

Sleep apnea is a common condition, and can often result in snoring and decreased energy despite getting a proper eight hours of sleep. There are two different types of sleep apnea: Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when throat muscles relax during slumber, while central sleep apnea is caused by the brain sending improper signals to respiratory system. In some extreme cases, people have experienced complex sleep apnea, which is a combination of the two.

Other effects of sleep apnea include, courtesy of WebMD:

  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Heart failure, irregular heart beats, and heart attacks
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Worsening of ADHD

If left untreated, sleep apnea can become a serious problem, affecting everything from daily activities to your physical well-being. If you or someone you know is experiencing any of symptoms associated with the disorder, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor to address the matter as soon as possible.