The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA. It is known that sleep apnea can cause insomnia, high blood pressure, headaches, depression, irritability, and heart problems. Recent studies have added another concern. New data suggests the likelihood that OSA sufferers have a higher risk of developing cancer — especially women.

Research Into OSA and Cancer

A recent report published in the European Respiratory Journal studied women and men with OSA. The study indicates that 2.8% of the women in the study developed cancer, compared to only 1.7% of the men in the study. The most common cancer among the women was breast cancer; for men, it was prostate cancer. Even considering other factors that can contribute to cancer, the number of those with OSA developing cancer was still higher for women than men.

The researchers believe that OSA might be an early indicator for a future cancer diagnosis, but more research will be necessary to confirm the findings. The study was limited to 20,000 individuals with OSA and only 388 were diagnosed with cancer, so even if you have OSA, the risk appears to be low based on this study.

Other studies have also shown a link between OSA and cancer, though not necessarily with a higher risk to women sufferers. One study showed a nearly five times higher rate of cancer deaths in patients with severe sleep apnea compared to those without. The lead author of the study cautions, however, that while there is clearly a link, researchers are far from proving that sleep apnea causes cancer or aids in its growth.

Another study following sleep study patients in Spain found that those with severe forms of sleep apnea had a 65% greater risk of developing cancer. This study concentrated on oxygen levels and found that the greater the oxygen depletion during sleep, the more likely a person would develop cancer during the study period.

Schedule Your Sleep Evaluation Today

More research is needed to further understand the cancer-sleep apnea connection, but there is no question that untreated OSA is a dangerous and sometimes fatal issue. If you have any sleep difficulties, don’t risk your health — call to schedule an appointment with us today. We are pleased to serve patients in the Granger, Middlebury, Warsaw, and Plymouth, Indiana, area.