Obstructive sleep apnea affects around 20 million Americans and can lead to hypertension, heart attack, stroke, depression, muscle pain, fibromyalgia, morning headaches, and excessive daytime sleepiness.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Sleep Apnea, Cancer, and Mice

If you suffer from sleep apnea, you are no doubt familiar with the dangers of this condition. The combination of disrupted sleep and lack of oxygen aggravates countless systems in the body and leads to many health problem, one of the most notable being cancer.

We don’t fully understand all the associations between sleep apnea and cancer, but a new study presented yesterday at the ATS 2011 International Conference in Denver has concluded that sleep apnea can speed the growth of cancerous tumors.

Researchers in Spain used two test groups of mice, injecting each group with melanoma cells and monitoring the growth of tumors over a period of 40 days. One group was subject to intermittent hypoxia, or periodic oxygen deprivation meant to simulate obstructive sleep apnea conditions. Since the researchers used mice instead of humans, they were able to make sure that no other conditions, such as heart disease or obesity, affected the data. Intermittent hypoxia was the only variable.

After the 40 days, researchers found that while the tumors grew in both mice groups, the tumor volume was greater in the intermittent hypoxia group, and that these tumors contained greater numbers of dead cells, indicating a more aggressive cancer. This is indeed a frightening finding for sleep apnea sufferers.

Other research on sleep deprivation finds that lack of sleep affects hormones and proteins that play a role in the development of cancer. They also find that sleep deprived people have increased levels of inflammatory indicators, which is a huge risk factor for cancer. The combination of sleep and oxygen deprivation seems to point gravely towards increased risk of cancer and quickly spreading tumors.

If you suffer from sleep apnea, seek contact a local sleep dentist to learn about effective and comfortable sleep apnea treatments.

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posted by Erin at 9:22 AM