A relatively small, but long-term study from Australia confirms that a very strong correlation exists between sleep apnea and negative health consequences, including cancer, heart disease, and early death. The impact noted in this study is among the most serious ever found in studies. Although this may be due partly to the small sample size, it still shows a significant effect, and it reminds us how serious sleep apnea can be.

A Fourfold Increase in Death Risk

This study, conducted by researchers at the University of Sydney, looked at 397 adults participating in the Busselton Health Study. They used at-home sleep tests to evaluate which patients had obstructive sleep apnea. Participants with a pre-existing stroke history were excluded from some of the analyses.

Researchers found that 4.6% of subjects had moderate or severe sleep apnea. Mild sleep apnea was common. It was found in 20.6% of subjects. During the 20-year follow-up with subjects, there were:

  • 77 deaths

  • 31 strokes

  • 125 cancer events

  • 39 cancer fatalities

When they correlated these events with the sleep apnea data, they found that subjects with moderate to severe sleep apnea were:

  • 4.2 times more likely to die

  • 3.7 times more likely to have a stroke

  • 3.4 times more likely to die from cancer

  • 2.5 times more likely to develop cancer

This study confirms earlier results that link sleep apnea to both cancer and early death as well as cardiovascular events. Mild sleep apnea showed no increased risk.

The cancer connection is relatively new, having been reported only in 2012 and confirmed in 2013. This new study shows an even stronger cancer connection than earlier studies, especially in terms of cancer deaths.

Treating Sleep Apnea Saves Lives

This study reaffirms the importance of sleep apnea treatment in helping to address many crucial health risks. As with most studies, in this study the authors recommend CPAP treatment, which is a good front-line treatment for many. For others oral appliance therapy is a better choice. Oral appliance therapy can be used for mild or moderate sleep apnea as a front-line treatment, and is a good backup treatment for severe sleep apnea patients that cannot tolerate CPAP.

If you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, it’s crucial that you begin treatment as soon as possible. For more information about sleep apnea treatment, please call 402-493-4175 for an appointment at the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center in Omaha.