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More Cancer Cases Among Women with Sleep Apnea


Women with severe sleep apnea appear to be at an elevated risk of getting cancer, a study shows. No causal relationship is demonstrated, but the link between nocturnal hypoxia in women and higher cancer risk is still clear.

“It’s reasonable to assume that sleep apnea is a risk factor for cancer, or that both conditions have common risk factors, such as overweight. On the other hand, it is less likely that cancer leads to sleep apnea,” notes Ludger Grote, Adjunct Professor and chief physician in sleep medicine, and the last author of the current study.

As expected, advanced age was associated with elevated cancer risk, but adjusting the data for age, gender, body mass index (BMI), smoking, and alcohol consumption nevertheless showed a possible link between intermittent hypoxia at night and higher cancer prevalence. The connection applied mainly to women, and was weaker in men.

“The condition of sleep apnea is well known to the general public and associated with snoring, daytime fatigue, and elevated risk of cardiovascular disease, especially in men. Our research paves the way for a new view—that sleep apnea may possibly be connected with increased cancer risk, especially in women,” Grote says.

More information: Athanasia Pataka et al, Cancer prevalence is increased in females with sleep apnoea: data from the ESADA study, European Respiratory Journal (2019). DOI: 10.1183/13993003.00091-2019

Provided by University of Gothenburg

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