Severe, untreated sleep apnea has been linked to aggressive melanoma. Study author Dr. Miguel Angel Martinez-Garcia said, “This is the first large, prospective multicenter study that was specifically constructed to look at the relationship between sleep apnea and a specific cancer.”
“While more research is needed, this study shows that patients in the study had markers of poor prognosis for their melanoma. It also highlights the importance of diagnosing and treating sleep apnea,” added Martinez-Garcia.
The study involved 412 patients with confirmed cutaneous malignant melanoma. The patients were also studied to determine the quality of their sleep.
The researchers found that those with more aggressive melanoma also had more severe, untreated sleep apnea. These findings do not suggest that sleep apnea causes melanoma to become more aggressive, but it is an observed association nevertheless.
Dr. Doris Day, a skin cancer expert and spokeswoman for The American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, commented, “One person dies every hour in this country from malignant melanoma.” Dr. Day believes that sleep may help the body better fight off melanoma because “many immunologic and restorative events take place during this time.”
Dr. Michael Weinstein, director of the sleep disorders center at Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola, added, “Although the mechanism of this effect is unclear, these results add to the growing list of adverse effects of obstructive sleep apnea and point out the central role that sleep plays in health.”
Martinez-Garcia advises, “People who snore, frequently wake up at night, or have daytime sleepiness should see a sleep specialist, especially if they have other risk factors for cancer or already have cancer. Physicians – especially dermatologists, cancer surgeons, and medical oncologists – should ask their patients about potential sleep apnea symptoms, and refer them for a sleep study if they have these symptoms.”
Also, read Bel Marra Health’s article on Obstructive sleep apnea may be associated with vitamin D deficiency.