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Sleep Apnea Linked to Higher Cancer Death Risk
Date:5/21/2012

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

SUNDAY, May 20 (HealthDay News) -- Sleep apnea has already been linked to a host of adverse health problems, such as high blood pressure and heart disease. Now, new research suggests that in people who already have cancer, the sleep disorder may raise their risk of dying from cancer.

People with the most severe sleep apnea -- those who have 30 or more episodes of low or no oxygen in an hour of sleep -- had almost five times the risk of cancer death compared to someone without sleep apnea.

"Sleep apnea is the periodic pausing of breathing during sleep that results in drops in oxygen levels in your blood. It causes snoring and sleepiness during the day," explained study author Dr. Javier Nieto, chair of the department of population health sciences at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, in Madison.

"Aside from being an annoyance to your spouse, family members and maybe even your neighbors depending on how loud your snoring is, sleep apnea is a severe problem. Drowsiness and sleepiness during the day increase the risk of accidents, and sleep apnea is associated with cardiovascular disease, heart disease, strokes, hypertension and cardiovascular mortality. Now, we see this new angle: an increase in cancer mortality," said Nieto.

Nieto is scheduled to present the study Sunday at the American Thoracic Society International Conference, in San Francisco.

Nieto said the new study was suggested by researchers from the University of Barcelona in Spain who found that when mice were deprived of oxygen periodically, skin cancer tumors grew faster in the mice. And, cancer cells in the lab that are deprived of oxygen produce molecules that stimulate the growth of blood vessels in an attempt to get more oxygen, he said.

Nieto and the Spanish researchers wondered if this effect was the same in humans. To test that theory, they reviewed data from
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