Several sleep studies have identified a connection between sleep apnea and cancer. While more in depth research is needed, the research suggests there may be a link between consistently low oxygen levels associated with apnea-induced breathing obstruction and the formation of malignant tumors. While research is ongoing, this concern highlights one of the many reasons obstructive sleep apnea is a condition that should not be taken lightly.
What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a disorder that causes repeated pauses in breathing during sleep. According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, up to 22 million Americans have sleep apnea, although many people go years without a diagnosis. This condition is especially problematic since it is linked to a number of serious illnesses, including diabetes, heart disease and even cancer.
Sleep apnea symptoms
The most common symptoms of sleep apnea are restless sleep and loud snoring. Additional symptoms include:
· Morning headaches
· Daytime fatigue
· Lack of energy
· Dry mouth or sore throat upon waking
· Irritability and mood swings
Understanding the cancer connection
A 2013 study reported that people with severe sleep apnea had a 65% increased risk for cancer. Another study reported in the Journal of Sleep Medicine also showed moderate and severe cases of sleep apnea are associated with increased cancer risk. The 20-year study showed that people with moderate to severe cases of sleep apnea are two and a half times more likely to develop cancer and three times more likely to die from cancer. Research also links specific cancers to sleep apnea, including
· Head and neck cancers
· Aggressive melanomas
· Breast cancer
Poor quality sleep due to mild or more severe sleep apnea can have many negative effects on your quality of life and your overall health. Due to sleep apnea’s link to serious diseases such as cancer, it’s important to take sleep apnea symptoms seriously. If you or someone you love struggles with symptoms such as loud snoring, daytime fatigue, and interrupted breathing during sleep, it may be time to consider a consultation with a sleep specialist. Chesapeake Sleep Center today to learn more.