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Dr. Edwards' Blog

Studies Link Sleep Apnea to Cancer -- May 31, 2012

Two new studies indicate that people who suffer sleep apnea have a higher risk of developing cancer.

CPAP Machine

Sleep apnea is a widespread disorder that 28 million Americans suffer.  It disrupts breathing and causes snoring and is linked to low blood oxygen levels.  That lack of oxygen can trigger the development of tumors.  Many people who suffer sleep apnea use CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machines like the one pictured here to help regulate their nighttime breathing.  However, in many  instances, an oral appliance made by your dentist can be just as effective as a CPAP machine and is more comfortable to wear.  Several Optima Dental Group patients needed these custom-made devices for their sleep apnea and reported back to me they breathed better and stopped snoring the first night they wore them.

One of the sleep studies, conducted at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health over 22 years, found that severe breathing problems at night increases the likelihood of dying from cancer by almost 5 times, compared to people who had no such breathing issues.  People with moderate apnea were found to have double the risk of dying.

A second set of findings, from the Spanish Sleep Network, studied the incidence of cancer, rather than the mortality rate.  Here, researchers followed 5,200 people over seven years.  Their study tracked oxygen depletion and found, for example, that people whose oxygen levels dipped below 90 percent, for up to 12 percent of the total time asleep, had a 68 percent greater likelihood of developing cancer, than people who did not have breathing difficulties at night.

Sleep apnea is widely understood to be related to obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes -- conditions that also are linked to cancer.

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