Numerous studies have documented the association of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) with cardiovascular disease and diabetes. A recent article by Dr. F. Javier Nieto from the Department of Population Health Sciences at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, notes the association of an increase in cancer mortality in patients with OSA. This finding, while yet to be duplicated, raises yet another red flag as to the importance of diagnosing and treating OSA.
Madison, Wisconsin, and San Francisco – Sleep-disordered breathing (SDB), commonly known as sleep apnea, is associated with an increased risk of cancer mortality, according to a new study.
While previous studies have associated SDB with increased risks of hypertension, cardiovascular disease, depression, and early death, this is the first human study to link apnea with higher rate of cancer mortality.
Lead author Dr. F. Javier Nieto, chair of the Department of Population Health Sciences at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, says the study showed a nearly five times higher incidence of cancer deaths in patients with severe SDB compared to those without the disorder, a result that echoes previous findings in animal studies.
“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.”