Study suggests link between sleep apnea and cancer

May 7, 2013

Darien, IL – Sleep apnea may be associated with colon cancer, according to a new study from Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Using data from two prospective cohort studies, researchers analyzed the sleep habits and disease outcomes of 76,368 women and 30,121 men; the median age for both groups was in the 50s. In 22 years, a total of 1,973 cases of colon cancer were reported.

The risk of cancer was higher among people who slept 9 hours or more per day rather than 7 hours, and who were overweight or regular snorers, according to a press release from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, which published the study. Excess weight and snoring often are associated with sleep apnea, leading researchers to suggest sleep apnea may contribute to cancer risk. They noted that people with obstructive sleep apnea may sleep poorly and be more tired, causing them to sleep longer – which could explain the connection to sleeping 9 hours or more.

The study was published in the May issue of the journal SLEEP.