Sleep apnea is a common problem in America: nearly 30 million Americans have some form of sleep apnea or gaps in breathing while sleeping.
It’s already well established that sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure, hypertension, stroke, depression and heart disease.
Now researchers have discovered a link between sleep apnea and cancer. In fact, sleep apnea sufferers may be up to 5 times more likely to die from cancer of any kind. True.
Read: What is Sleep Apnea
Dr. Javier Nieto, chair of the Department of Population Health Sciences at the University of Wisconsin, studied more than 1,500 people and 22 years of data from the Wisconsin Sleep Study and identified the link between apnea and cancer.
“Clearly, there is a correlation, and we are a long way from proving that sleep apnea causes cancer or contributes to its growth,” says Nieto, an expert in sleep epidemiology. “But animal studies have shown that the intermittent hypoxia (an inadequate supply of oxygen) that characterizes sleep apnea promotes angiogenesis-increased vascular growth – and tumor growth. Our results suggest that SDB is also associated with an increased risk of cancer mortality in humans.”
Simple translation: people with severe sleep apnea tend to have less oxygen in their systems and grow more blood vessels that feed all cells–including cancerous cells.
The Wisconsin researchers discovered that people with severe sleep-disordered breathing died of cancer at a rate 4.8 times higher than people with no sleep-breathing problems.
While additional studies are needed to replicate the study results, Dr. Nieto states, “Sleep apena is a serious problem that needs to be treated if you have it and this [information] is one more reason to worry about it.”
Watch ABC News Report about Cancer and Sleep Apnea
Learn More about Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is indeed a serious condition and one that deserves serious attention. Our Ear, Nose and Throat doctors in Salt Lake City and Draper, Utah regularly diagnose and treat sleep apnea. Our advice is that if you or a sleeping partner recognize the symptoms of sleep apnea, schedule an appointment with an ENT doctor to ensure you receive the care you need.
There are also procedures and therapies that can cure or at least help you manage the symptoms of sleep apena. One of the most common sleep apnea treatments is the use of a Nasal CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure), which is essentially a mask that fits over your nose and blows in air to keep the airway tissues open while you sleep.
Another recent development is the use of da Vinci robotic surgery to help cure sleep apnea. Our own Dr. Pramod Sharma is one of few Utah sleep apnea doctors who perform the procedure that can eliminate sleep apnea completely–without visible scarring.