Sleep apnea promotes cancer incidence and progression

Sleep apnea promotes cancer incidence and progression

A study published in the scientific journal Cancer Research reports that interrupted sleep caused by obstructive sleep apnea promotes the development of cancer. How good sleep is really not a waste of time!

In addition to being linked to an increased risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes, studies show that poor sleep also increases the risk of some types of cancer. For example, people who sleep less than six hours a night have a 50% higher incidence of colorectal polyps (a major risk factor for colon cancer) than those who sleep more than seven hours.

Older men who have trouble sleeping also have a significantly increased risk of developing prostate cancer, especially for the more aggressive types of the disease. By the same token, postmenopausal women with insomnia are more likely to develop thyroid cancer, but this lack of sleep does not appear to increase the risk of breast cancer.

Sleep apnea increases the risk of cancer and heart disease

You need to get enough sleep to prevent cancer, but the quality of that sleep is just as important. For example, people with obstructive sleep apnea see their risk of developing colorectal cancer significantly increased, even if they spend more than nine hours in bed.

These episodes of apnea result from an involuntary relaxation of the muscles of the tongue and throat, which obstructs the flow of air into the lungs and causes a pause in breathing that can last for several seconds. The resulting hypoxia through reversal leads to momentary awakening (most often unconscious) and increased heart rate and blood pressure, which explains the increased risk of cardiovascular disease in sufferers.

In parallel, hypoxia associated with repeated apnea also leads to activation of some hypoxia-sensitive proteins, in particular hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF), leading to an increase in angiogenesis and carcinogenic factors such as VEGF that promote tumor progression.

Sleep apnea promotes chronic inflammation

By examining the development of tumor cell tumors implanted in models, a research team from the University of Chicago observed that frequent sleep disruption is associated with faster growth of tumors, both in terms of their size and their ability to invade tissues.

Microscopic examination of these tumors indicates that sleep fragmentation is associated with the massive recruitment of inflammatory cells (macrophages) near tumor cells, and these cells are known to secrete many inflammatory molecules that stimulate the growth of tumor cells.

Thus, poor sleep quality is not a simple “discomfort” that hinders our days due to increased fatigue. It is actually a major imbalance in the body, creating a climate of inflammation

Chronic able to sustain the development of cancer.

How to reduce sleep apnea

Excess weight and obesity are major causes of sleep apnea, so people with a BMI over 25 should pay special attention to some of the signs of poor sleep quality (loud snoring, extreme tiredness, headaches, and irritability).

Losing a few extra pounds, exercising, getting ready for bed by avoiding highly stimulating activities, and reducing your consumption of alcohol and rich foods at dinner are therefore changes that can help you get a good sleep.

For more serious cases, medical intervention using night ventilators may be necessary to restore sleep quality, increase quality of life and thus reduce the risk of premature death.

Hakim P et al. Interrupted sleep accelerates tumor growth and progression through the recruitment of tumor-associated macrophages and TLR4 signaling. Cancer res. 74: 1329 – 37.

* Presse Santé strives to convey health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In any case, the information provided cannot replace the advice of a health professional.

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