The latest research to arise out of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health has determined that heavy snoring could be a sign of untreated “sleep disordered breathing” (SDB). If you suffer from this, you’re five times more likely to develop cancer than people who sleep soundly. SDB is a term that incorporates a group of disorders characterised by abnormalities of respiratory pattern (in other words, “pauses in breathing”).
“Ours is the first study to show an association between SDB and an elevated risk of cancer mortality in a population-based sample,” lead researcher Dr. Javier Nieto said of the 22-year study which involved more than 1 500 people, heavy snorers. The study indicated that those with severe sleep-disordered breathing were 4.8 times more likely to develop cancer whereas moderate SDB sufferers have double the risk of developing cancer.
Scientists blame the low blood oxygen levels (known as intermittent hypoxia). These can trigger the development of malignant tumours, by stimulating the growth of the blood vessels that feed them. The most common type of sleep disordered breathing problem is obstructive sleep apnoea. Blood oxygen levels dip during periods of severe sleep apnoea when the airway frequently collapses during the breathing cycle.
Dr. Mehrdad Ghaffari, medical director of the Altoona Regional Institute for Sleep Medicine, emphasizes the need to seek medical attention for sleep issues.
“Not getting enough oxygen while sleeping can lead to heart problems, strokes, and high blood pressure. With the new link to higher cancer mortality, this should be the push for people to seek medical help,” Ghaffari said. Losing weight is one possible treatment, another could be a continuous positive airflow pressure (CPAP) which is the mask patients wear when sleeping. There are also dental devices that can increase oxygen levels. One such device is SnoreMeds™, a simple mouthpiece that positions and holds the lower jaw slightly forward while you sleep.
This keeps the throat open, allowing air to easily flow unobstructed through the breathing passage so that you can breathe more freely and not snore. Whilst it won’t cure sleep apnoea, SnoreMeds™, an over-the-counter mandibular device, works effectively with 85% of snorers. It and other similar devices could prove to be the simplest solution in combatting cancer stimulated by low blood oxygen levels. As the University of Wisconsin’s latest sleep study suggests, in the future doctors could help people fight the disease by stopping them from snoring.