A study of more than 19,000 people has found that women with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are more likely to be diagnosed with cancer than men with the condition, according to research published 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, disrupted sleep, and feeling excessively tired. The new study suggests that people who experience more closures of the airways during sleep and whose blood oxygen saturation levels drop below 90% more frequently are more likely to be diagnosed with cancer than people without OSA.
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 taken into account, suggesting women with OSA may be at greater risk of being diagnosed with cancer than men with OSA.
The study was led by Athanasia Pataka, assistant professor of respiratory medicine at Aristotle University and who works at the George Papanikolaou General Hospital of Thessaloniki, Greece. “Recent studies have shown that low blood oxygen levels during the night and disrupted sleep, which are both common in OSA, may play an important role in the biology of different types of cancers. But this area of research is very new, and the effects of gender on the link between OSA and cancer have not been studied in detail before,” she says in a release.
The researchers analyzed data from 19,556 people included in the European Sleep Apnoea Database (ESADA), an international multi-centre study that includes patients with OSA, to explore the link between OSA severity, low blood oxygen levels, and cancer development. The participants included 5,789 women and 13,767 men in total, who were also assessed 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