There may be a link between severe sleep apnea and the likelihood of developing cancer suggests a study looking at the data of thousands of participants. However, this link appears to be stronger in women.
Sleep apnea is a widespread sleep condition among people in the United States according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. A person with this condition will stop and start breathing repeatedly during sleep. This causes them to wake up and will affect the quality of their rest by making sleep irregular.
Abnormal relaxation of throat muscles causes one subtype of this condition — obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) — which involves obstruction of the airways as a person sleeps.
A team of researchers from 12 academic institutions — including universities like University College Dublin in Ireland, and that of Gothenburg University in Sweden — have analyzed a large dataset corresponding to 19,556 participants to educate themselves more about the possible ties between sleep apnea and cancer risk. The data has come from the European Sleep Apnoea Database (ESADA), which includes participants with OSA.
The European Respiratory Journal holds research findings of the new study where the researchers looked at the link between the severity of sleep apnea, blood oxygen concentration levels, and a person’s risk of cancer. The impact of biological sex on this association was also taken into account.
Athanasia Pataka, the study author, who is an assistant professor at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece, says, “Recent studies have shown that low blood oxygen levels during the night and disrupted sleep, which is both common in OSA, may play an important role in the biology of different types of cancers.”
She further explains, “But this area of research is very new, and the effects of gender on the link between OSA and cancer have not been studied in detail before.”