The latest study published in European Respiratory Journal studies 20,000 women with severe sleep apnea, predicting a higher risk of cancer. About 2% from these participants were already diagnosed with cancer which further confirms the risk.
The data in this study is from European Sleep Apnea Database (ESADA). It has a complete medical history of all the participants across Europe. The research team is not sure if sleep apnea causes cancer or it just increases the risk. In any case, it is a threat to women health.
What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea or obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a medical condition in which the patient experiences severe breathing difficulties during sleep. National Sleep Foundation (NSF) estimates 5–20% of adults in the USA to be suffering from OSA. Usually, the narrowing of airway causes this obstruction. There is another type of it called central sleep apnea. Here a failure in brain signaling interrupts normal breathing. In any case, it is extremely discomforting.
The shortness of breath happens when oxygen supply to the brain is not sufficient. This low oxygen not only causes breathing issues but also cause blood pressure, memory loss, mood disorders and heart diseases. The common symptoms of OSA include loud snoring, fatigue, stress, heart problems, etc.
The link between cancer and sleep apnea
Scientists are trying to understand the relation between sleep apnea and cancer for long. One of the hypotheses says that these two conditions have nearly the same risk factors that include age, BMI and obesity. Another hypothesis says that OSA is similar to another condition called intermittent hypoxia. In this disease, the body experiences from sleep fragmentation and is unable to get a sufficient amount of oxygen. A close analysis explains that this is exactly same as happens in obstructive sleep apnea. That is how OSA may have a link with cancer.
Usually, this link would be something that disturbs the development of blood vessels, tissue development or the whole immune system. The research till date suggests that there is limited information on whether or not sex has plays any part in this link between OSA and cancer.
In this current study, researchers suspect a close association between age and cancer. In continuation of which they checked multiple factors i.e. sex, age, BMI, alcohol intake, etc. The results highlight a probability between OSA and cancer.
Why the risk is higher for women?
Additionally, this experiment finds that cancer risk is higher among women and weak in men. To everyone’s surprise, this threat was double or triple times more serious for women with OSA.
In light of these findings, the researchers assume that maybe female sex hormones and stress play a part in here. The data is insufficient to make a statement for now but more detailed research can explain it better.