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Severe sleep apnea tied to cancer risk

Lack of oxygen from disrupted rest may be to blame

Obstructive sleep apnea, a breathing disorder linked to heart disease and depression, may heighten the risk of cancer as well. A two-decade study shows that people with severe sleep apnea could be four times as likely to die of cancer as people without the condition.

“This is a kind of study that provides the opportunity to look at the long-range consequences of sleep apnea,” says Jonathan Samet, a pulmonary physician at the University of Southern California, who wasn’t part of the study team. “What’s surprising is the strength of the association they found,” he says. “This is a startlingly strong association.”

The findings were unveiled May 20 at a meeting of the American Thoracic Society in San Francisco and will appear in an upcoming issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

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