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Increased Cancer Rates, Alcohol, And Sleep Apnea?

Posted Apr 12 2011 9:19am

Here’s an interesting study which showed that drinking more than recommended amounts of alcohol can significantly increase your risk of certain types of cancer. Eight European countries enrolled over 250,000 people prospectively over 13 years and found that drinking too much alcohol could account for nearly 45 of cancers of the mouth, voice box and throat in men and 25% of those cancers in women. The rates for liver cancer were 33% and 18%, respectively for men and women. The researchers don’t have a good explanation for why alcohol can increase your chances of cancer. One proposed mechanism is the possibility that alcohol somehow damages DNA, preventing cells from repairing itself.

I’ve written in the past about how chronic reflux in the throat due to untreated obstructive sleep apnea can lead to an increased risk for pre-cancerous changes in the throat, as well as increasing inflammation in the nose and lungs. Chronic low-grade irritation and inflammation is a known risk factor for malignant degeneration. Other studies have shown that obesity is also an independent risk factor for cancer, particularly with breast and prostate cancers. It’s a given that if you’re overweight, you’ll have a higher chance of having obstructive sleep apnea. Multiple breathing pauses while sleeping can cause vacuum forces that literally suction up your stomach juices into your throat. Stomach juices not only include acid, but also bile, digestive enzymes, and even bacteria.

Not sleeping effectively due to breathing pauses can prevent adequate blood supply to the reproductive and digestive organs, as well the the peripheral organs such as the skin. Chronic hypoxia is a known aggravator of oxidative stress, which is one of the proposed mechanisms cancer generation. Chronic hypoxia and chronic inflammation are double whammies in cancer research.

I realize that this is not your typical, genetics-molecular biology explanation for cancer development, but if you look at it from a broader perspective, it does have some merit which deserves further investigation. Maybe cancer researchers should place sleep apnea as an additional risk factor for cancer.

What do you think about my hypothesis?




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