Snoring is disturbing for any number of reasons, not least of which is that it makes you very hard to sleep next to. But a new study has found something truly scary: people who have breathing difficulties while sleeping have a higher chance of developing cancer. The researchers used data from a 22-year-long sleep study involving 1,522 subjects. They found that those people who had sleep disordered breathing (SDB), which includes sleep apnea and some other kinds of snoring, experienced significantly increased levels of cancer—even after they'd adjusted for age, weight, smoking, and other factors. Those people with severe SDB were 4.8 times more likely to get it as those with no SDB. People with moderate SDB were 2 times more likely, and those with only mild SDB were 1.1 times as likely.
The increased risk is likely tied to the oxygen deprivation that occurs as a result of the airway obstruction. Previous research in animals has shown that hypoxia (not enough oxygen getting into the tissues) is associated with the formation of new blood vessels which can accelerate the growth of cancerous tumors. While this process has been studied in animals, this is the first research to establish that the same problem occurs in humans. This obviously suggests the value, which was already pretty well-established, of getting treated for sleep apnea and other sleep breathing problems. But in the meantime, this will give us all something to worry about as we try to fall asleep while attempting to will our bodies to maintain an open airway at all times during the night.
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