Sleep apnoea and cancer risk

New research has recently been published that – on the surface – seems to suggest that snoring could be a warning sign for women of developing cancer. Predictably, the media jumped on the story and it made headlines in several newspapers.

The NHS has now commented on the press coverage, aiming to put women’s minds at rest and put the research into context for those that are concerned.

Researchers at a university in Greece carried out a large-scale study, part-funded by the European Union, into the health habits of more than 19,000 people. The study recording their age, BMI, smoking status and alcohol consumption – all of which are known to increase the risk of cancer.

Sleep apnoea and snoring

They then recorded how often participants experienced sleep apnoea. Sufferers of this condition often snore and experience partial or complete closure of their airways that result in blood oxygen levels dropping below 90%. They concluded that cancer was more common in women that suffered from sleep apnoea than men who experienced OSA.

The findings were published in the European Respiratory Journal and researchers concluded that severe OSA could be an indicator of cancer in women.

The findings were covered widely in the UK press and now the NHS has given its verdict.

They pointed out that OSA or obstructive sleep apnoea is a relatively common condition. The study found that 2% of those with OSA that were assessed had cancer, but cancer rates were low and the study did not prove that OSA causes cancer. They were also other underlying factors that increase the risk of both cancer and OSA such as diet and exercise that were not taken into account.

OSA can have a significant impact on quality of life, though, and there are treatments that can help manage this condition.