Is snoring a risk for cancer?

by Rebecca Israel, MS. Reviewed by Charles Li, MD

June 23, 2020

  • Snoring is associated with an increased risk of cancer incidence.

  • Snoring is also associated with an increased risk of cancer mortality.

  • The relationship between snoring and cancer is not fully understood, and there are other factors for scientists to explore that could be influencing the association.

Snoring and cancer title

Let’s be honest, we are all periodic snorers. We’ve all been caught snoring after a long day by our families or partners. Scientists have conducted research on the specific implications of long-term snoring. In this article, we discuss those implications as it relates to cancer.

Who snores?

Snoring is common in adults. In a sleep study of over 600 participants, researchers found that 44% of males and 28% of females snored regularly.

Source: The Occurrence of Sleep-Disordered Breathing Among Middle-Aged Adults

Snoring can be a one-night thing or be caused by a chronic condition. Alcohol, smoking, and above-average weight are known to increase someone’s likelihood of snoring. Snoring is a symptom of sleep-disordered breathing, present in sleep disorders like apnea and hypopnea.

Common causes of snoring

Snoring and cancer incidence

Is there an association between sleep-disordered breathing and cancer incidence?

Source: Association between sleep-disordered breathing, obstructive sleep apnea, and cancer incidence: a systematic review and meta-analysis

In 2015, researchers wanted to review existing studies on this topic. They found 5 studies that totaled 34,848 patients with and 77,380 patients without sleep-disordered breathing. A total of 574 (1.6%) patients with and 290 (0.37%) patients without sleep-disordered breathing reported incidents of cancer.

40% increased risk of cancer incidence associated with sleep-disordered breathing.

Researchers found a significant association between snoring and cancer incidence. To determine if the relationship was merely due to chance or a stronger factor, researchers considered other risks like age, gender, and smoking. They were able to show that the association was still strong considering these other factors.

Snoring and cancer mortality

Is there an association between sleep-disordered breathing and cancer mortality?

Source: Sleep-disordered Breathing and Cancer Mortality Results from the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort Study

Researchers look at sleep study data from a large sample in Wisconsin. They compared the participant's sleep study results with cancer mortality over 22 years. They used the same measurements of sleep-disordered breathing as the previous study.

4.8x increased risk of cancer mortality associated with severe sleep-disordered breathing.

After analysis of the data, they found an association between sleep-disordered breathing and cancer mortality. Again, these researchers considered other known factors that could explain the relationship: age, sex, BMI, smoking, physical activity, alcohol use, education, diabetes, waist circumference, and sleep duration. All of these risk factors for cancer did not nullify the relationship.

Takeaways

These two studies drew a relationship between snoring and cancer. Notably, they were able to statistically rule out the influence of other cancer risk factors. This relationship is not fully understood, but this data offers evidence of an association nonetheless.

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