This is one of those articles that hits home on a very personal level for me. A New York Times article published May 20th, 2012 introduced two studies that show a possible correlation between sleep apnea and increased cancer risk.
Sleep apnea occurs when the soft tissue surrounding the airway relaxes and collapses to obstruct the airway during sleep. Very often it will cause snoring and sometimes choking. The best way to diagnose sleep apnea is to do a sleep study. A few years ago my wife noticed that I would often stop breathing during the night and would gasp for air and make choking noises. I was completely unaware of my condition. I had a sleep study performed. They hooked me up to all kinds of probes to monitor my breathing, oxygen levels, and heart rate. In 2 hours I stopped breathing a total of 117 times. Needless to say, this is not ideal sleep.
Sleep apnea is an extremely dangerous condition. It has already been linked to increased hypertension and stroke. Now two studies are saying that it could lead to increased cancer risk. A Spanish study focused on low oxygen levels and how it might affect cancer risk. Of the thousands they studied, those whose oxygen levels were the lowest were most likely to receive a cancer diagnosis during the study period. A University of Wisconsin study found that people with moderate sleep apnea doubled the likelihood of death from cancer, while severe patients were more than four times likely to die from cancer.
There is still some debate about whether other factors such as weight and exercise could be other contributing factors to the cancer risk. However, coupled with the cardiovascular risks, sleep apnea is a serious condition that should not be taken lightly. Most of the time it is treated with a machine called CPAP (pictured above) which means constant positive air pressure. You wear either a full face mask or a nose mask and it applies air pressure to keep your airway open while you sleep. It took me some getting used to it but now I find it is hard to sleep without it. A little aggravation to me is worth it compared to the negative affects of sleep apnea.