A groundbreaking new study has found that lack of sleep is associated with an increase risk of colon cancer.
Lack of sleep has been already linked with higher risks of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and death.
Researchers from University Hospitals (UH) Case Medical Center and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine found that individuals who averaged less than six hours of sleep at night had an almost 50 per cent increase in the risk of colorectal adenomas compared with individuals sleeping at least seven hours per night.
Adenomas are a precursor to cancer tumours, and left untreated, they can turn malignant.
"A short amount of sleep can now be viewed as a new risk factor for the development of the development of colon cancer," said Li Li, the study`s principal investigator.
In the study, patients were surveyed by phone prior to coming into the hospital for scheduled colonoscopies at UH Case Medical Center.
They were asked demographic information as well as questions from the Pittsburg Sleep Quality Index (PSQI), which obtains information about the patient`s overall sleep quality during the past month.
The PSQI asks for such information as how frequently one has trouble sleeping and how much sleep one has had per night.
Of the 1,240 patients, 338 were diagnosed with colorectal adenomas at their colonoscopy.
The patients with adenomas were found in general to have reported sleeping less than six hours compared to those patients without adenomas (control) patients.
The researchers also found a slightly stronger association of sleep duration with adenomas with women compared to men, but the difference was not statistically significant.
The study was published in the Feb. 15, 2011 issue of the journal Cancer.