Although sleep apnea and other types of disordered sleep have been connected to cancer in the past, for the first time ever, research scientists have found a correlation between a specific type of cancer–malignant cutaneous melanoma–and cancer aggressiveness. Specifically, researchers have found that those with untreated obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) suffered from more aggressive melanoma than those without sleep apnea or those with consistently treated sleep apnea.
Untreated Sleep Apnea & Aggressive Melanoma: The Study
The study, which was presented at the American Thoracic Society (ATS) International Conference in May of this year, involved 412 people who had been diagnosed with malignant cutaneous melanoma. The patients, who were located among 24 teaching hospitals that are part of the Spanish Sleep and Breathing Network, all underwent a sleep study to determine which had untreated OSA. Those with OSA that had been treated in the past were excluded. Then each patient’s cancer case was followed closely to determine the stage of the cancer, the cancer’s growth, and the cancer’s aggressiveness.
The study found that, generally, the more severe a patient’s sleep apnea, the more aggressive their cancer. This trend help true even when researchers corrected for the patients’ age, sex, body mass index (BMI), skin type, sun exposure history, and other risk factors for melanoma.
Sleep Apnea & Cancer Prognosis: What We Know Now
What can this study teach us about sleep apnea and cancer? And how can we use the information learned in this study to help both OSA patients and patents diagnosed with melanoma?
“While more research is needed, this study shows that patients in the study had markers of poor prognosis for their melanoma. It also highlights the importance of diagnosing and treating sleep apnea,” said lead author Miguel Ángel Martinez-Garcia, MD, PhD, from the Hospital Universitario y Politécnico La Fe, Valencia, Spain. “Based on our study, it seems a relationship between sleep apnea and cancer may also exist. It is very important, however, that people with sleep apnea do not infer that they will necessarily develop cancer.”
In addition to adding even more importance to all obstructive sleep apnea patients being diagnosed with OSA, the lead author also states that the study should also encourage all doctors look for signs of sleep apnea in patients, and for oncologists to ask their melanoma patients about the symptoms of disordered sleep.
“Our findings have implications for both patients and physicians,” Dr. Martinez-Garcia added. “People who snore, frequently wake up at night or have daytime sleepiness should see a sleep specialist, especially if they have other risk factors for cancer or already have cancer. Physicians–especially dermatologists, cancer surgeons and medical oncologists–should ask their patients about potential sleep apnea symptoms, and refer them for a sleep study if they have these symptoms.”
Sleep Apnea Surgery At Surgical Sleep Solutions
Far too many people suffering from sleep apnea have difficulty consistently treating their symptoms with CPAP therapy, while for others, CPAP therapy is not effective. Because of the growing evidence connecting OSA with other serious health problems, including cancer, it is more important than ever that those with OSA find treatments that work for them. At Surgical Sleep Solutions, we are dedicated to helping treat OSA through bimaxillary advancement surgery. To learn more about what we do, or to schedule a consultation, please call us today: (855) 560-7378.