Sleep Apnoea

Study has find that women with obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) are more likely to diagnose with cancer than men with the condition, according to research publish in the European Respiratory Journal. OSA, where the airways close completely or partially many times during sleep, reduces the levels of oxygen in the blood, and common symptoms include snoring, disrupt sleep and feeling excessively tired.

The study also found that cancer was more prevalent among women with OSA than men, even after factors such as age, body mass index (BMI), smoking status and alcohol consumption were take into account, suggesting women with OSA may be at greater risk of being diagnosed with cancer than men with OSA.

Levels during the night

The study was led by Athanasia Pataka, who is Assistant Professor of Respiratory Medicine at Aristotle University and works at the George Papanikolaou General Hospital of Thessaloniki, Greece. They explained: “Recent studies have shown that low blood oxygen levels during the night and disrupt sleep, which are both common in OSA, may play an important role in the biology of different types of cancers.

The researchers analysed data from 19,556 people include in the European Sleep Apnoea Database (ESADA); hence an international multi-centre study that includes patients with OSA; so to explore the link between OSA severity, low blood oxygen levels and cancer development. The participants include 5,789 women and 13,767 men in total, who were also assess for their age, BMI, smoking status and level of alcohol use, as these factors can impact the risk of developing cancer.

To assess OSA severity and the link with developing cancer, the researchers looked at how many times the participants experienced partial or complete airways closure per hour of sleep, and how many times during the night their blood oxygen levels dropped below 90%.

Common type of cancer

The data show that among the ESADA participants, 388 people (2%) had diagnose with a serious cancer; this include 160 women and 228 men; which is 2.8% of all women and 1.7% of all men in the ESADA group. Those who were diagnose with cancer were likely to be over 50 years of age and less overweight; also the most common type of cancer among women was breast cancer; so while prostate cancer was the most prevalent among men.

But this trend was not the same when comparing men with OSA versus men without OSA; so even after the research team accounted for the other variables; so that impact the risk of developing cancer, such as BMI, age, smoking status and alcohol use; which suggests that women with OSA are more likely to develop cancer than men with OSA.

The researchers note that their analysis did not account for other factors; so that may affect cancer risk; such as participants’ physical activity, marital status, education level and occupation; which potentially limits the study. They also stressed that their results cannot show that OSA causes the increased risk of cancer; hence only that there is an association between the two; also say that further research is needed to understand how OSA symptoms and treatment may affect cancer.

Clinicians should continue to be vigilant when assessing patients with possible OSA; so especially among women who may present with less common symptoms. Both female and male OSA patients should be advise to adhere to therapy and follow a healthy lifestyle to manage their condition most effectively; which including by physically active, achieving ideal body weight; so limiting alcohol use and not smoking.”