Sleep Apnea May Increase Cancer Rates in Women

Though it’s called "sleep" apnea, this dangerous condition doesn’t just cause your body harm while you’re asleep. From high blood pressure to fatigue and depression, sleep apnea can really take its toll on your total body health, around the clock - whether you’re trying to sleep or you're wide awake. In fact, a new study has even linked sleep apnea to an increased instance of certain types of cancer – an increase that only seems to affect women, not men.

The study was published in the European Respiratory Journal and examined data from 20,000 participants with sleep apnea. Researchers found that of those 20,000 people, about 2 percent had a cancer diagnosis somewhere in their medical history. Cancer diagnoses appeared more frequently in women who had more severe cases of obstructive sleep apnea.

Though they cannot find a direct link, researchers in the study have several theories as to why the women in the study had such an elevated risk of cancer. One theory is that, because obstructive sleep apnea often occurs when the patient is overweight or obese, the women were already predisposed to certain types of cancers due to their weight, just as they were at a higher risk of obstructive sleep apnea for the same reason.

Another theory is that the lack of oxygen delivered to the body thanks to the interrupted breathing patterns from the sleep apnea are somehow responsible for allowing the cancer to thrive in the body.

Yet another theory is that female hormones, combined with the lack of oxygen (known as nocturnal hypoxia) from the sleep apnea, cut the immune defenses in female sleep apnea patients.

Whatever the exact cause is, we know you can definitely improve your sleep quality, oxygen levels and overall well-being when you treat your sleep apnea, and this can have a very positive effect on your mood, energy levels and hopefully even reduce your risk of high blood pressure (hypertension) and cancer.

Treating sleep apnea doesn’t have to mean complicated machinery and uncomfortable sleep masks. You can achieve a good night’s sleep with a simple sleep orthotic that props open the airway, allowing you to breathe naturally without obstruction. To learn more about how a sleep orthotic can help you get the rest you deserve without the complicated CPAP machine, please give Dr. Mingus a call at 541-382-6565.