Can Colon Cancer Be Caused By Sleep Apnea?

Colon cancer is usually thought to be due to hereditary causes, along with your diet and lifestyle factors, but a new study revealed that sleeping less than 6 hours per night increases your chances of getting colon cancer by 50%, compared with sleeping 7 hours per night. The study authors speculate that perhaps melatonin may be involved, but no plausible explanation was given.

Here’s my take on it: Lack of sleep of poor quality sleep causes a physiologic state of stress. Your adrenaline levels are constantly increased. Since digestion is your last priority (especially when you’re running from a tiger), blood flow and nervous system activity are shut down when you’re under stress. Now imagine if you place food in your bowel, and your gut is not able to digest properly, or clear toxins appropriately. Hypoxia (low oxygen) causes local tissue damage (causing inflammation) and what’s called neo-vascularization, where new blood vessels are created to try to bring in more nutrients. Chronic over-stimulation of tissues in a state of low oxygen levels can create a perfect storm for cancer development. This process can also be applied to reproductive organs such as breast or prostate.

If you have or had colon cancer, how many hours of sleep do you normally get?

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4 thoughts on “Can Colon Cancer Be Caused By Sleep Apnea?

  1. interesting. look at Farrah Fawcett’s nose in this picture:
    she had rectal cancer. apparently she had a lot of nasal surgery
    just like Michael Jackson who I am sure had severe UARS as a result. nothing else causes such severe insomnia that you need Propofol to sleep.

  2. Dr. Deb,

    The pinched in effect from even simple rhinoplasty is very common, even today. Farah’s jawline looks good with good facial development, but as you suggested, any degree of chronic nasal congestion can aggravate sleep problems, leading to insomnia, poor sleep, and poor health.

  3. Both of my parents died of colon cancer. My father had apnea but never had it treated. My mother was the consummate worrier. And she complained about my father’s snoring forever! Interesting article. I have sleep apnea and use a cpap every night. This article gives me the information I need to address my other sleep issues…overactive mind. Thank you!

  4. Greetings Dr. Park!

    Thinking back, a friend of mine with Colon Cancer did have all of the signs of severe Obstructive Sleep Apnea. I knew nothing of Sleep Apnea when I knew him but thinking back the signs were there.

    When I saw the title “Can Colon Cancer Be Caused By Sleep Apnea?” my first thought was “yes – due to the lack of sleep related stress” as you mention. As I thought on this a bit further I got a bit more “chicken and egg” about the matter.

    The microbiome in our gut now compared to what was in our ancestors guts are likely much different (see: ).

    We grow our food in chemically fertilized ground with the thus induced excess pests and plants managed by pesticides and herbicides and then even genetically modify (injected bacteria genes!) some of the crops to be able to deal with the herbicides. The difference this makes in the microbiome that the plants grow in must be profound!

    More pesticides and now fungicides are used in and near the storage facilities – more change.

    An then to top it all off preservatives and chemical colors are added to processed foods. The running joke is that embalming may become optional.

    With the gut microbiome changed – is it possible there is more inflammation and less chemoreflex and muscle system control that brings on both cancer and Sleep Apnea? Indeed, I wonder if it is possible that the modified chemoreflexes often wander toward the hypocapnic range, which would starve cells of oxygen and set up for cancer as you point out.

    May we find better health!