Sleep Apnea and Cancer: Understanding the Link

obstructive sleep apnea and cancer

Although the correlation between obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and heart disease is well documented, few people know that sleep apnea is also associated with the second most deadly disease in the United States: cancer.

A number of diverse studies have found a connection between disordered sleeping and cancer, but there is still much to learn. In this post, we will take a closer look at a few of the most important studies and discuss why OSA and cancer may often go hand-in-hand.

Sleep Apnea & Cancer: The Studies

  • A 2013 sleep apnea study found followed almost 5,000 patients diagnosed with sleep apnea in Spanish hospitals between 2003 and 2007. Scientists found that those with more severe sleep apnea also suffered from higher occurrences of cancer diagnosis. Specifically, those with the most severe sleep apnea had a 65 percent higher rate of being diagnosed with cancer.
  • A 2012 cancer and sleep apnea study out of the University of Wisconsin Followed about 1,5000 people for 22 years through the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort. After correcting for other factors, the study found that those with severely disordered breathing at night were five times more likely to die from cancer than those with normal breathing patterns while asleep.
  • A 2015 study of mice found that mice exposed to low-oxygen environments at night (mirroring the effects of OSA) had tumors grow much more aggressively than mice who had regular exposure to oxygen.
  • An American Academy of Sleep Medicine study that followed almost 400 people for 20 years found that severe sleep apnea made participants over three times more likely to develop cancer. The same study, which controlled for confounding factors like body mass index and smoking, also correlated severe sleep apnea with high rates of stroke and morbidity.

Why Are Sleep Apnea & Cancer Connected?

Even though multiple studies have drawn a strong line connecting sleep apnea and cancer, researchers and scientists still don’t understand why those with disordered breathing during sleep are more likely to be diagnosed with cancer and more likely to die from cancer.

However, some doctors have theories about the relationship. The most popular theory is that sleep apnea causes hypoxemia, a lack of oxygen in the blood. This cronic lack of oxygen may cause the body to create more blood vessels, which then act to “feed” cancerous growths. Although this theory has not been proven, several studies have correlated not just sleep apnea, but also hypoxemia, to cancer diagnosis and cancer death.

Explore Surgical Sleep Apnea Solutions

At Surgical Sleep Solutions, our central mission is to help all OSA patients get the treatment they need for sleep apnea that will help them live a fuller, happier, healthier, and longer life. While some patients are successfully treated for sleep apnea through lifestyle changes, oral devices, or CPAP therapy, others still struggle to find a treatment that works for them. We offer an innovative sugery, bimaxillary advancement, that effectively cures OSA in over 95 percent of our patients. To learn more about our treatment option, or simply to talk to a doctor about your sleep apnea, we invite you to call 855-560-7378 or fill out our quick contact form.

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