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Sleep Apnea and Cancer

Unfortunately, researchers have come up to the conclusion that there’s a link between sleep apnea and cancer. To be more precise, they have found out that certain sleep apnea aspects increase the risk of cancer development, even cancer death. The main cited reason is low oxygen levels (hypoxia) due to frequent breathing interruptions. So, even though more research is needed, there are several things you should know about cancer and sleep apnea, including the following:

  • what is sleep apnea;
  • what is the link between sleep apnea and cancer; and
  • how to prevent sleep apnea.

Now let’s dig deeper into these.

What is Sleep Apnea?

A sleep disorder characterized by repeated breathing interruptions during sleep that results in reduced oxygen levels at night is called sleep apnea. The oxygen deprivation also coincides with other health issues like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer.

Common symptoms of sleep apnea include morning headaches, daytime tiredness, fatigue, mood problems, sore throat upon waking, and insomnia. But, the most frequent symptoms are restless sleep and snoring.

Treating sleep apnea can be as simple as making some lifestyle changes like avoiding alcohol, giving up smoking, and losing extra weight. However, if such changes don’t alleviate sleep apnea symptoms, CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) therapy might be needed or sinus or nasal surgery in severe cases.

What is the Link between Sleep Apnea and Cancer?

As we already mentioned, researchers have found a link between a higher risk of cancer development and death in sleep apnea patients and the main culprit being low oxygen levels. Namely, blocked airways encourage neovascularization, the process of new blood vessel growth, which may lead to tumor growth.

In fact, people suffering from severe sleep apnea are at a 65% higher risk for developing cancer, according to a study conducted in 2013. Another research shows those with disordered breathing at night are at a 5 times higher risk to die from cancer, compared to those who don’t have sleep apnea.

Furthermore, a recent study found that people with moderate or severe sleep apnea are two times more likely to develop cancer, and three times more likely to die from it. And, this was all confirmed by certain animal studies one of which reported a connection between fast cancer growth and sleep apnea in mouse models.

Then, certain studies show a connection between sleep apnea and certain types of cancer. The main findings include:

  • 80% of patients suffering from head or neck cancer suffer from sleep apnea, too.
  • People with severe sleep apnea have the most aggressive cases of melanomas.
  • Women with sleep apnea are at higher risk for breast cancer than those without this sleep disorder.

How to Prevent Sleep Apnea?

The truth is, sleep apnea is a widespread condition and so is cancer. Luckily, both of them can be prevented and treated. Here’s a brief list of some healthy lifestyle changes that can help you prevent sleep apnea:

  • Limiting alcohol consumption
  • Giving up smoking
  • Control your weight
  • Improve sleep quality
  • Treat current conditions

To conclude, if you experience any of the above-listed sleep apnea symptoms, ensure you get checked and do a sleep study. Once you get your results you will be able to discuss further treatment options with your doctor to help you alleviate symptoms. But, if it turns out that you don’t have this sleep condition, make sure you make healthy lifestyle choices to prevent sleep apnea and reduce the risk of developing cancer.

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