The sleep disorder linked to an increased risk of cancer

The sleep disorder linked to an increased risk of cancer

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They have found that patients who suffered from OSA were more likely to develop cancer and blood clots than those who didn’t; their conclusions were reached after the study of 62,8111 patients over five years prior to the start of their treatment for OSA.

Together with data from the Swedish National Cancer Registry and Statistics Sweden, they were able to ascertain a link between the sleep condition and the fourth biggest killer globally.

Speaking about the research, Dr Andreas Palm said: “It is known already that patients with obstructive sleep apnoea have an increased risk of cancer, but it has not been clear whether or not this is due to the OSA itself or to related risk factors for cancer, such as obesity, cardiometabolic disease and lifestyle factors.”

While the scientists do not know why OSA increases the risk of cancer, this does not mean they are not without their theory including, said Palm, that “oxygen deprivation due to OSA is independently associated with cancer”.

Overall, the researchers matched 2,093 patients with OSA and a diagnosis with cancer up to three years before diagnosis.

Furthermore, Dr Palm added: “We found that patients with cancer had slightly more severe OSA, as measured by an apnoea hypopnea index average of 32 versus 30, and an oxygen desaturation index of 28 versus 26,” he said. “In further analysis of subgroups, ODI was higher in patients with lung cancer (38 versus 27) prostate cancer (28 versus 24) and malignant melanoma (32 versus 25).

“The findings in this study highlight the need to consider untreated sleep apnoea as a risk factor for cancer and for doctors to be aware of the possibility of cancer when treating patients with OSA. However, extending screening for cancer to all OSA patients is not justified or recommended by our study results.”

As a result, while OSA could be considered a risk factor for cancer, the risk does not necessarily justify the public expenditure on screening all OSA patients.

Are there any other studies linking OSA to poor health?

Yes, as recently as last month studies have been published which link OSA to a premature death; the study in question was published in the journal Sleep Epidemiology and estimated that sleep apnoea was associated with a 56 percent increased risk of death from any cause.

Furthermore, they found insomnia was also observed to cause an increase in the likelihood of an early fatality.

In a statement, Dr Alexander Sweetman of Flinders University, where the research was carried out, said: “Insomnia and obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) are the two most common sleep disorders, each occurring in 10-30% of the general population, but in many patients the conditions can occur at the same time in what we call Co-Morbid Insomnia and Sleep Apnoea (COMISA).

“Insomnia and obstructive sleep apnoea are both independently associated with reduced quality of life and high healthcare use, while people with COMISA have been shown to have worse sleep, poorer daytime function, mental health and productivity issues and greater rates of cardiovascular disease.”

Dr Sweetman also commented on previous studies how Flinders’ study differed: “[P]revious studies have tended to use data from overnight sleep studies called polysomnography to diagnose OSA.

“Given than not everyone can rapidly access overnight sleep studies we aimed to investigate the effect of self-reported COMISA symptoms on risk of all-cause mortality.”

While the study was purely observational, meaning it could not confirm a direct link between sleep apnoea and premature death, Dr Sweetman added that this did not mean sleep disorders and overall health should be ignored.

Dr Sweetman added: “As studies continue to show that COMISA can be a deadly combination, it’s important we develop more effective and tailored management approaches for COMISA, and to investigate the effect of COMISA treatment on reduction of mortality risk”

How common is OSA in the UK?

The British Lung Foundation (BLF) estimate that around one and a half million adults in the UK have OSA, but that a staggering 85 percent of these are undiagnosed and subsequently untreated.

Symptoms of sleep apnoea include:
• Breathing stopping and starting
• Making gasping, snorting, or choking noises
• Waking up a lot
• Loud snoring.

Although a sleep disorder, the condition can also cause daytime problems too such as causing a patient to feel very tired, finding it hard to concentrate, having mood swings, and causing morning headaches.

In common with all conditions sleep apnoea can cause problematic health issues further down the line if it isn’t diagnosed and treated.

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