Two new studies in the news today bring both good and bad news for sufferers of sleep apnea, a sleep disorder that occurs when the airway closes during sleep and restricts breathing.


First the good news...


A new Spanish study has found that the 'mask' often used to treat sleep apnea may help to lower patients' blood pressure.  Researchers studied two sleep groups of sleep apnea patients who used a 'mask,' or continuous positive airway pressure therapy (CPAP,) to treat their condition.  CPAP treatment uses a mask to help push air into the lungs while asleep.  Researchers found that in both sleep groups, those who used CPAP for at least four hours per night had a lower incidence of high blood pressure than those who did not use CPAP or who used it less frequently.  The study results were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.


And now for the bad news...


Two new studies have found that people with sleep apnea have a higher risk of developing cancer.  In the first study, this one again coming out of Spain, researchers followed thousands of sleep apnea patients at sleep clinics and found that those with the most severe forms of sleep apnea had a 65 percent greater risk of developing cancer of any kind. The second study looked at the cases of 1,500 government workers in Wisconsin and found that those with sleep apnea had five times the rate of dying from cancer as people without the sleep disorder.


The studies looked at cancer as a whole rather than individual types of the disease.  And both studies ruled out factors that might contribute to both sleep apnea and cancer such as age, tobacco use, alcohol use, weight, and level of physical activity.  The two studies were both presented in San Francisco this week at an international conference organized by the American Thoracic Society.  


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Sleep apnea linked to cancer
Sleep disorder tied to cancer, but treatment mask may lower blood pressure.