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Severe sleep apnea could up risk of stroke, cancer and death

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Washington: Researchers have linked moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea to an increased risk of stroke, cancer and death.

Results of the 20-year follow-up study show that people with moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea were four times more likely to die (hazard ratio = 4.2), nearly four times more likely to have a stroke (HR = 3.7), three times more likely to die from cancer (HR = 3.4), and 2.5 times more likely to develop cancer.

Lead author Nathaniel S. Marshall, PhD, senior lecturer in clinical trials at the University of Sydney in Australia, said sleep apnea is a common disease that has a powerful impact on public health because it greatly increases the risk of strokes, cancers and mortality from any cause.

The study involved 397 adults who are participating in the ongoing Busselton Health Study.

Objective sleep data were gathered in 1990 using a portable home sleep testing device.

Participants with a history of stroke or cancer were excluded from selected analyses.

Prevalence rates were 4.6 percent for moderate to severe OSA and 20.6 percent for mild OSA. During the 20-year follow-up period there were 77 deaths and 31 strokes, as well as 125 cancer events that included 39 fatalities. Mild sleep apnea was not associated with increased health risks.

The study has been published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine .

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