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How Obstructive Sleep Apnea can lead to cancer, dementia, and unprovoked venous thromboembolic.

October 5, 2022


How Obstructive Sleep Apnea can lead to cancer featured

A new report finds a link between Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and unprovoked venous thromboembolic. This study adds to research linking OSA to cancer and dementia. Here’s all you need to know about these links and risk factors. 

Sleep Apnea

First, here’s a recap: Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is “when your throat muscles repeatedly relax and block airways during sleep. When the soft tissues in your throat, such as your tongue and soft palate, temporarily relax, your airway is narrowed or closed, and breathing is momentarily cut off.” Treatments for OSA include lifestyle changes and CPAP machines. 


In 2014, the Journal of Sleep Medicine came out with one of the first reports that found an “emerging but strong association with cancer” in patients with OSA. The 20-year study found that people with moderate to severe Sleep Apnea were two and a half times as likely to develop cancer and three times as likely to die from cancer. There are stronger links to head and neck cancer, breast cancer in women, and melanoma. 

While it is not clear what causes this link, there are theories. One of the strongest hypotheses is that a lack of oxygen in the blood due to OSA causes every cell in your body to be stressed. This causes increased inflammation which can be a risk factor for cancer. 


Dementia is another known effect of OSA. There is a large body of research linking memory disorders and OSA, but there is no consensus on how strong the link is to dementia. One study says that the link can be caused by “an increase in a protein, called beta-amyloid, that builds up on the walls of the arteries in the brain and increases the risk of dementia.”

Unprovoked Venous Thromboembolism

“Venous thromboembolism (VTE), a term referring to blood clots in the veins, is an underdiagnosed and serious, yet preventable medical condition that can cause disability and death.” (cdc.gov). Unprovoked Venous Thromboembolism refers to blood clots in the veins that appear without apparent cause. 

There is new evidence emerging of a connection between OSA and venous thromboembolic events. One new study found a twofold risk for OSA patients to experience these events. This is also believed to be caused by a lack of blood oxidation levels. The study finds that people who did not use CPAP machines had an increased risk of experiencing venous thromboembolic events, supporting their theory that the link is associated with oxidation levels. 

If you are concerned that you have OSA and are at risk for any of the issues caused by OSA, get in touch today! We can get you started on the path towards diagnosis and help you treat your OSA. 

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