No apparent link between sleep apnea and cancer

Illustration of obstruction of ventilation. Credit: Habib M’henni / public domain

Obstructive sleep apnea, in which people stop breathing for short periods while sleeping, affects about 5% of Canadian adults aged 45 years or older and can negatively affect health. More than 1 in 5 adult Canadians have risk factors for sleep apnea such as being overweight, being male and having diabetes, chronic nasal congestion or other health conditions.

Studies have postulated that obstructive may be linked to cancer because of low levels of oxygen in the blood.

"There is a need for a sufficiently large cohort study with a long enough follow-up to allow for the potential development of cancer that adjusts for important potential confounders, examines common cancer subtypes and has a rigorous assessment of both obstructive sleep apnea and cancer," writes Dr. Tetyana Kendzerska, Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) and Women's College Hospital, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ont., with coauthors.

To understand whether obstructive sleep apnea is associated with cancer development, researchers undertook a study of 10 149 patients with the disorder who underwent a sleep study between 1994 and 2010. They linked this information to health administrative databases from 1991 to 2013. At the start of the study, 520 (5.1%) had a cancer diagnosis. In the study follow-up period (median 7.8 years), 627 (6.5%) people who did not have cancer at baseline had incident cancer. Prostate, breast, colorectal and lung cancers were the most common.

After controlling for , the researchers found no apparent causal link between obstructive sleep apnea and cancer.

"We were not able to confirm previous hypotheses that is a cause of overall through intermittent hypoxemia [low blood oxygen levels]," write the authors. "However, in subgroup analyses, we found that the level of oxygen desaturation was associated with the development of smoking-related cancer."

More information: Canadian Medical Association Journal, www.cmaj.ca/lookup/doi/10.1503/cmaj.140238

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Osteoporosis risk heightened among sleep apnea patients

Apr 15, 2014

A diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea may raise the risk of osteoporosis, particularly among women or older individuals, according to a new study published in the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & ...

Sleep apnea tied to diabetes in large study

Jun 06, 2014

In the largest study to date of the relationship between sleep apnea and diabetes, a new study of more than 8,500 Canadian patients has demonstrated a link between obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and the development of diabetes, ...

Recommended for you

Sleep-disordered breathing linked to functional decline

Dec 06, 2014

(HealthDay)—For older women, sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) is associated with functional decline, according to a study published in the November issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Sleep apnea linked to poor aerobic fitness

Nov 24, 2014

People with moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea may have an intrinsic inability to burn high amounts of oxygen during strenuous aerobic exercise, according to a new study led by researchers at University ...

Sleep apnea may contribute to kidney disease progression

Nov 14, 2014

Sleep apnea may accelerate kidney function decline in diabetic patients with kidney disease, according to a study that will be presented at ASN Kidney Week 2014 November 11-16 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.