(HealthDay News) — Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is associated with cancer diagnosis, especially among women, according to a research letter published online in the European Respiratory Journal.

Athanasia Pataka, MD, PhD, from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece, and colleagues examined gender-specific differences in the association between OSA and cancer prevalence using data from the European Sleep Apnea Database (ESADA). Patients aged older than 18 years and enrolled in ESADA between 2007 and 2016 were considered.

The researchers found that 2% of the 19,556 patients had been diagnosed with malignancy (1.7% of men and 2.8% of women). In unadjusted models, a significant correlation was noted between cancer diagnosis and elevated apnea hypopnea index (AHI; AHI ≥5/h versus AHI <5/h: odds ratio [OR], 1.35; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.02 to 1.79; P = 0.03), cumulative percentages of time at saturations below 90% (CT90%) of recording time (RT; OR, 1.08; 95% CI, 1.00 to 1.17; P = 0.03), and CT90% in minutes (OR, 1.02; 95% CI, 1.00 to 1.04; P = 0.01). After adjustment for age, gender, body mass index, smoking, and alcohol consumption, only CT90% remained a predictor for cancer diagnosis (CT90% of RT: OR, 1.1 [95% CI, 1.00 to 1.20; P = 0.04]; CT90% in minutes: OR, 1.02 [95% CI, 1.00 to 1.04; P = 0.02]). In women, but not men, increased ORs for cancer were seen in different categories of OSA severity and degree of nocturnal hypoxia.

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“Clinicians should continue to be vigilant when assessing patients with possible OSA, especially among women who may present with less common symptoms,” Pataka said in a statement.

Two authors disclosed financial ties to medical technology companies, including Philips-Respironics; one author has a patent pending for a sleep apnea treatment.


Pataka A, Monsignore MR, Ryan S, et al. Cancer prevalence is increased in females with sleep apnoea – data from the ESADA. Eur Resp J. doi:10.1183/13993003.00091-2019