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Sleep Apnea and Cancer

by / Wednesday, 20 March 2013 / Published in Sleep Apnea and CPAP

Those who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are no doubt aware of the many health concerns connected with this disorder. OSA has been linked to daytime fatigue, hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease, to name a few. Unfortunately, this ugly lineup just had a new player added to it: cancer.

Two new studies observed a strong link between OSA and cancer. People with the most severe forms of OSA are thought to be 65% more likely to develop cancer and 5 times more likely to die from it. The theory behind the OSA-cancer connection is that in order to compensate for the lack of oxygen the body experiences during OSA, it creates extra blood vessels that can fuel tumors, almost like a fertilizer for cancer.

Fortunately, the diagnosis of OSA isn’t necessarily a death sentence. Significant strides have been made in the therapies that treat sleep apnea. The most common by far is the use of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), which allows the sufferer to maintain open airways during sleep and avoid the oxygen deprivation which is behind the aforementioned health concerns.

The real problem lies with those who are undiagnosed. It’s thought that some 28 million Americans now have some form of sleep apnea. Of that number, a shocking 90% are as of yet undiagnosed. Sleep apnea has the potential to trim 20 years off the lifespan of its victims. Diagnosis and treatment can easily erase that number.

Those who show symptoms of OSA (loud snoring, lapses in breathing, daytime fatigue), and their families owe it to themselves to follow up on these symptoms. A sleep study done by a qualified professional can determine the presence and degree of sleep apnea.

While treating sleep apnea isn’t without its challenges, those challenges are far outweighed by the potential benefits. The avoidance of cancer being a major one of them.