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Sleep Apnea Severity Predicts Aggressiveness of Skin Cancer

Update Date: Sep 09, 2013 10:09 AM EDT

Bad sleep can predict cancer risk, a new study suggests.

Scientists have discovered a link between severity of sleep apnea and aggressiveness of malignant skin melanoma.

The latest research, presented Monday at the European Respiratory Society (ERS) Annual Congress, supports previous findings on cancer and sleep apnea. Past studies found evidence that sleep apnea increased the risk of mortality and cancer. Researchers found that reduced oxygen levels in the blood, which is common in sleep apnea, enhanced tumor growth in mice.

Researchers said the latest study is the first to examine the link in humans.

The study involved 56 patients diagnosed with malignant skin melanomas. Researchers measured the aggressiveness of the cancer along with the presence and severity of sleep apnea.

Study results revealed that 61 percent of patients had sleep apnea and 14.3 percent had severe sleep apnea. The findings revealed that melanoma became more aggressive as the severity of sleep apnea increased. Researchers also linked sleep apnea severity to other factors of aggressiveness like growth rate or the depth of invasion of the tumor.

"This is the first study in a human sample to show that sleep apnea can worsen the outcomes of melanoma. The findings are from a preliminary small sample, but if the results are confirmed in larger studies, this would have important clinical implications, particularly as sleep apnea can be easily treated and this could open up new therapeutic possibilities for people with both conditions. We have just begun a bigger prospective trial enrolling 450 patients with cutaneous melanoma to analyze this link further," lead researcher Dr. Francisco Campos-Rodriguez, from the Hospital de Valme in Seville, Spain, said in a news release. 

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