You probably wouldn’t think about skin cancer being possibly related to obstructive sleep apnea, but here’s an interesting study that found that the aggressiveness of melanoma is related to the severity of obstructive sleep apnea. What was more surprising was that 60% of these patients with melanoma had obstructive sleep apnea, with 14% having severe levels.
There have been numerous studies in recent years showing higher rates of cancer from untreated obstructive sleep apnea or even sleep deprivation. Mice subjected to low oxygen concentrations were found to enhance tumor growth.
If you look at stress physiology research, any chronic, long-term sleep problems or repeated apneas can cause low oxygen levels in general. When you’re under stress, certain organs and systems need to shut down. These are called the end-organs, which most often describe the bowels, the reproductive system, hands and feet, and your skin. These areas are not needed if you happen to be running from a lion or in a fight. With less blood flow and nervous system innervation, low oxygen levels can promote cancer, especially if you are already geneticaly susceptible. The real test will occur if you can study patients with melanoma and sleep apnea, and see if treating with CPAP helps to lower aggressiveness or recurrence rates.
How man of you with obstructive sleep apnea also have a skin cancer diagnosis?