New research proves that snoring speeds cancer development

A new European sleep apnoea study has found that snoring promotes cancer development because it limits oxygen intake. This might worsen outcomes for cancer patients. It reveals that intermittent hypoxia, which is a common side effect of sleep apnoea, promotes cancer development by promoting blood vessel growth within tumours.

 stop snoring and cancer risk

Lead researcher Dr. Antoni Vilaseca, of the Hospital Clinic De Barcelona in Spain, and his colleagues, recently presented their findings at the European Association of Urology (EAU) Congress in Munich, Germany.

Numerous previous studies have linked bad sleep to poor cancer outcomes, and this latest study reveals that hypoxia may be the reason why it happens. Researchers in Spain explain that hypoxia, which is just one of the many consequences of sleep apnoea, happens when body tissues or organs don’t get enough oxygen.

A 2012 study reported by Medical News Today, for example, suggests that sleep apnea increases the risk of cancer death. Last year, MNT also reported on a study linking heavy snoring and sleep apnoea to earlier cognitive decline including Alzheimer’s and dementia – both being advanced by 5 to 10 years because of it.

Abnormal breathing patterns during sleep, like sleep apnoea and heavy snoring, are more common as we age. According to published figures, such breathing problems affect around 52% of elderly men and 26% of elderly women.

Lead researcher Antoni Vilaseca of Hospital Clínic De Barcelona said that the latest findings suggest obstructive sleep apnea promotes cancer development by increasing blood flow in tumours. Dr. Vilaseca and his colleagues recently presented their findings at the European Association of Urology (EAU) Congress in Munich, Germany.

“Patients suffering from obstructive sleep apnea usually suffer from intermittent hypoxia at night. This work shows that intermittent hypoxia has the potential to promote the formation of blood vessels within tumours, meaning that the tumours have access to more nutrients,” Vilaseca said in a news release.

Sleep apnoea is a disorder in which a person has shallow breaths or one or more pauses in breathing during sleep. Such pauses can last from seconds up to a few minutes, and they can happen as many as 30 times in an hour. Obstructive sleep apnoea is the most common form of the condition, where the airway becomes blocked or collapses during sleep. It can easily be prevented, by the wearing of a simple mouthpiece at night, but the majority of cases go undiagnosed and untreated. Snorers and their partners continue to ignore it and even consider it harmless.

Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) affects millions of people worldwide and is an ever-increasing problem, mostly due to the increase of some of the main lifestyle factors that cause it. It is known to affect more than 18 million Americans in the US, with millions more not having treatment. Risk factors for the disorder include a small upper airway, smoking, alcohol use, being overweight and having a large neck, small jaw or a large overbite.

Approximately 5% of the UK adult population is known to have OSA, and the figures for Australia are even higher. Some of the high-population emergent nations have even bigger levels. Figures published this week stated that the level in India was assessed at 15%, and that for China higher still. Asia News alarmingly reported that as many as 30% of the population had OSA.

“Although this is an experimental study, it is remarkable, because it demonstrates the influence of oxygen deficiency on the growth of renal cell carcinoma tissue. Increased oxygenation of the blood may be the underlying mechanism why not smoking or giving up smoking, regular sport activity, reducing the body mass index and other lifestyle changes that increase tissue oxygenation have a supportive beneficial effect on better outcomes in renal cell cancer as well as other tumour types,” Arnulf Stenzl, Chair of the EAU Congress Committee, said in a statement.

Whatever the figures are – action is required at every level including Government controlled Health Services. Oral appliances similar to a sports mouthguard, when worn at night, have been proved by the NHS Researchers in Britain to prevent and control the problem. These appliances are inexpensive and easily available with no prescription required – but the majority of snorers ignore the problem until it’s too late.

John Redfern