A new study has linked untreated sleep apnea to melanoma skin cancer’s aggressiveness. This is the first large trial designed to link sleep apnea to a specific cancer risk, and the results show that sleep apnea can, indeed, contribute to risks related to that cancer.

An Easy Cancer to Observe

Researchers decided to focus on melanoma because it’s an easy cancer to measure and observe. Melanoma is a form of skin cancer in which the pigment cells become cancerous. This makes it one of the most visible cancers, and it’s also the most deadly form of skin cancer, so it’s a good choice. In addition, there are well-validated approaches to measure the aggressiveness of melanoma. The researchers in this study had also done previous work with melanoma. Earlier research had also hinted at a possible link between this cancer and sleep apnea.

Microscopic image of malignant melanoma

Microscopic Image of Malignant Melanoma

To determine the relationship between sleep apnea and melanoma, researchers looked at 412 patients that had confirmed cases of malignant melanoma. The patients had an average age of 55.8 and were evenly divided between men and women. Patients who had previously been treated with CPAP were excluded. The remaining patients underwent sleep studies to confirm the presence of sleep apnea.

Researchers found that the most aggressive cancers were found in patients who had the most severe obstructive sleep apnea. This relationship held after checking for confounders of age, gender, body mass index (BMI), skin type, sun exposure, and other melanoma risk factors.

Researchers on this paper are clear about the implications for patients, “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.” They also noted that doctors, including dermatologists and oncologists, should ask patients about sleep apnea symptoms and refer them for a sleep test.

You Need a Treatment You Can Stick to

Of course, diagnosis is only part of controlling your sleep apnea risks. It’s also important to find a sleep apnea treatment that you can and will use to control your sleep apnea. CPAP is highly effective, but many people find it’s uncomfortable and inconvenient. Oral appliances, on the other hand, are highly effective and can be easily used. As a result, more people stick to treatment if they are using oral appliances than with CPAP.

If you are looking for a comfortable, convenient sleep apnea treatment in Omaha, please call (402) 493-4175 for an appointment with sleep dentist Dr. Roger Roubal at the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center.