Women with obstructive sleep apnea are more likely to be diagnosed with cancer than men with this same disease, even after taking into account factors such as age, body mass index (BMI), smoking and alcohol, according to a study in more than 19,000 people published in the magazine 'European Respiratory Journal', edited by the European Respiratory Society (ERS, for its acronym in English).
Apnea, in which the airways are completely or partially closed many times during sleep, reduces oxygen levels in the blood, and common symptoms include snoring, sleep disturbances and feeling of excessive tiredness. The new study suggests that people who experience more airway closures during sleep and whose blood oxygen saturation levels fall below 90 percent more often are more likely to be diagnosed with cancer.
“Recent studies have shown that low blood oxygen levels during the night and sleep disruption, which are common in apnea, can play an important role in the biology of different types of cancer. But this area of research is very new, and the effects of gender on the relationship between apnea and cancer have not been studied in detail before, “explains the study leader, Athanasia Pataka, of the University of Aristotle (Greece).
To assess the severity of apnea and its relationship to developing cancer, the researchers looked at how many times participants experienced partial or complete closure of the airways per hour of sleep, and how many times during the night their blood oxygen levels dropped. below 90 percent.
When they analyzed the data according to the sex of the participants, the researchers found that the chances of diagnosing cancer were higher in women with severe apnea, and that they had more severely reduced blood oxygen levels during sleep compared with women without this disease.
But this trend was not the same when men with apnea were compared with men without this condition, even after the research team took into account the other variables that could affect the risk of developing cancer, such as BMI, age , smoking and alcohol consumption, suggesting that women with apnea are more likely to develop cancer than men affected in the same way.