Sleep Apnea & Cancer?

Thu, Jul 12, 2012

Sleep apnea is such a prevalent issue today because 80-percent of the people with this disorder are left undiagnosed, according to Dr. Michael Breus, PhD., a Clinical Psychologist and a Diplomat of the American Board of Sleep Medicine.

"What I really want to let people out there know is that if you don't treat your sleep apnea, bad things can happen," said Dr. Breus of the American Board of Sleep Medicine.

The negative consequences of sleep apnea have long been known, but two recent studies have raised the stakes even higher.  The studies show a connection between cancer and sleep apnea. The results of these studies were both presented recently at the American Thoracic Society conference in San Francisco, California in May.

In the first study, conducted by the University of Wisconsin School of Public Heath and Medicine, 1,522 men and women underwent polysomnography (diagnostic sleep studies) over a period of 22 years.   The researchers found the presence of mild sleep apnea (5 to 15 apnoeic events per hour) was associated with a 10 percent increase in death from cancer. Moderate sleep apnea (15 to 30 events per hour) was associated with a doubling of the risk of cancer death. Severe sleep apnea (30 or more events) was associated with a massive five-fold increase in death from cancer.

The second study, conducted by the University of Barcelona, investigated the link between OSA (obstructive sleep apnea) and cancer in mice.  In this study, researchers found that when mice with melanoma were deprived of oxygen periodically, their melanoma tumors grew more quickly than mice that were not deprived of oxygen. This kind of periodic oxygen deprivation is known as hypoxia – and hypoxia is a fundamental characteristic of obstructive sleep apnea.

The hypothesis behind the studies is that our cells behave differently when in an oxygen-poor environment.

These studies contribute to a rapidly growing realisation that untreated sleep apnea is dangerous and damaging to health. Even prior to these latest studies, excellent research had identified clear links and associations between sleep apnea and a range of serious health consequences including stroke, heart disease, hypertension, GERD (acid reflux) loss of libido / impotence, metabolic retardation and consequent weight gain, and type 2 diabetes.

If you believe you suffer from sleep apnoea (snoring, waking tiredness and daytime sleepiness are common ‘red flag’ indicators) then arrange a diagnostic sleep study to determine the nature and severity of your condition.

Testing is covered by Medicare and the test and subsequent treatment can usually be performed in the comfort, convenience and privacy of your own home.  Call 1300 246 637 to chat with a friendly sleep therapist or click on the button below to make an online enquiry.

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