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Snoring may increase cancer risk

People who snore and suffer from disturbed sleep may have a heightened risk of dying from cancer, research has shown.Snoring may increase cancer riskSnoring is one of the main symptoms of sleep disordered breathing (SDB).  Study participants with severe SDB were almost five times more likely to die of cancer than those not affected by the problem.

Experts think the link may be due to breathing problems causing an inadequate supply of oxygen.

Laboratory studies have shown that intermittent hypoxia – or oxygen starvation – promotes tumour growth in mice with skin cancer.

Lack of oxygen stimulates the generation of blood vessels that nourish tumours, a process known as angiogenesis.

SDB covers a range of disorders that lead to interrupted breathing during sleep.

By far the most common is obstructive sleep apnoea, in which the airway collapses, leaving the sleeper struggling for breath. Typically this produces snoring and repeated forced waking.

Sleep apnoea is known to be associated with obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes.

The latest research from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the US also points to a connection with cancer mortality.

Scientists looked at 22 years-worth of data on a total of 1,522 people who took part in a study of sleep problems.

Participants underwent tests that included measurements of sleep and breathing at four-year intervals. The results showed an association with cancer death that increased sharply with SDB severity.

People with mild SDB were just 0.1 times more likely to die from cancer than those without the problem. But moderate SDB doubled the chances of cancer death, while severe SDB increased the risk 4.8 times.

Study leader Dr Javier Nieto, from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, said: “The consistency of the evidence from the animal experiments and this new epidemiologic evidence in humans is highly compelling.

“In vitro (laboratory) and animal studies suggest that intermittent hypoxia promotes angiogenesis and tumour growth, which can explain these observations.

“Ours is the first study to show an association between SDB and an elevated risk of cancer mortality in a population-based sample. If the relationship between SDB and cancer mortality is validated in further studies, the diagnosis and treatment of SDB in patients with cancer might be indicated to prolong survival.

“Additional studies are needed to replicate our results and to examine the relationships between SDB, obesity, and cancer mortality.”

The findings were presented at the American Thoracic Society international conference in San Francisco. They also published by the Critical Care Medicine.

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