Snoring Increases Cancer Death Risk

Wednesday, July 04, 2012 Stef dela Cruz 7 Comments

If your husband or wife snores loudly at night, it’s time to bring him to a sleep doctor. Aside from being quite annoying, loud snoring is a sign of sleep apnea – and sleep apnea increases the risk for cancer death by up to five times!

Sleep Apnea

In the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort study published at the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, about 1,500 participants were followed up over a span of about 20 years. Read on to find out if your snoring makes you at risk for sleep apnea.

Sleep Apnea Means More Cancer Deaths

The study participants were evaluated every four years. They were subjected to different sleep studies, such as polysomnographs that detected breathing patterns during sleep. Here are the findings of the study on sleep apnea and cancer death.

  • Cancer patients with sleep apnea had about five times higher risk for death due to cancer. If you don’t get enough oxygen during sleep because you snore, the lack of oxygen in your body may lead to resistance to different cancer drugs. Without oxygen, there is not enough free radical damage to cancer cells. This theory is also related to the claim that antioxidants are useless in cancer – click to read the full story.
  • Surprisingly, the svelte and skinny ones had a higher risk of dying due to cancer than the obese ones! That’s one minor victory for those who like packing in the pounds. But remember, being overweight or obese predisposes you to many other diseases, such as hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, and diabetes. So, if you want to lose weight, you might want to hear about the type of coffee that causes weight loss.
  • Even mice that don’t get enough oxygen actually have bigger tumors. Again, this is linked to the fact that hypoxia, or oxygen deficiency, is linked to tumor growth. And yes, the skinny mice were at greater risk. But don’t ask me if the mice actually snore – I can only guess! (And read about gene therapy where a virus that carries anti-tumor genes to your cells to eliminate solid tumors.)
  • On-and-off lack of oxygen is the key to tumor growth. That pattern is common in people who snore. Have you ever noticed how some people who snore suddenly stop breathing for a few seconds, then suddenly snort and start breathing again? You have probably witnessed an episode of sleep apnea – and the intermittent breathing is now being studied as the reason for an increase in tumor blood vessels.

Do You Have Sleep Apnea?

Sleep doctors and endocrinologists can help you determine if you are suffering from sleep apnea. Book an appointment with these doctors if you are suffering from any of the symptoms below.

  • You feel sleepy and irritated in the morning despite having had eight hours of sleep. To get a good night’s sleep, you need both quantity and quality. That means eight hours of sleep – if you stop breathing altogether every thirty minutes or so – is not “good sleep”. And your being rest-deprived is bound to show when you’re up and about. Read on for more signs of sleep apnea. (Who knows, you might have it!)
  • Your loved ones keep complaining about your snoring. Loud snoring is a great telltale sign that you may be suffering from sleep apnea. When you snore, you are suffering from respiratory obstruction; that’s what causes the snoring sound. And if the obstruction becomes complete or near-total, you also suffer from sleep apnea or sleep hypoxia.
  • Your partner wakes you up at night claiming you seemed to have stopped breathing. Don’t be surprised if your snoring is keeping your spouse awake at night. It’s a blessing in disguise – at least your spouse gets to wake you up when you stop breathing while snoring.
  • You suffer from headaches or dry mouth upon waking up. Those headaches are probably due to increased carbon dioxide in your blood from sleep apnea. Carbon dioxide dilates blood vessels, contributing to headaches. As for your dry mouth, try breathing through your mouth for five minutes and tell me your palate hasn’t dried up yet.

Remember, although snoring is a sign of sleep apnea, not all people who snore at night actually suffer from sleep apnea. But it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Sleep apnea increases the risk for cancer death by about five times! Given the many health risks of sleep apnea, see a doctor if you snore at night. And yes, your spouse will thank you once you stop snoring. Share this on your Facebook wall and help save someone’s life! You can also find me on Twitter or Facebook – catch me there for more health updates. Red heart

Stef dela CruzAbout the blogger
Stef dela Cruz is a vegan doctor and writer. She received the 2013 Award for Health Media from the Department of Health. She is the editor of The Manila Bulletin's Animal Scene Magazine. Get in touch if you want to invite her as a speaker!


  1. i have to get my bf checked, very informative post :)

  2. Glad to know the article helped you! Hope your boyfriend doesn't have sleep apnea. Good luck!

  3. Hello Dra! I self-diagnosed myself with sleep apnea. I usually wake up feeling tired/sleepy and with throat pain. (Also, I always inspect my tonsils and more often than not, swollen sila. As in with vesicles pero maliliit lang po) Other than that, wala naman na po akong ibang naffeel. hehe. Should I consult a doctor na? Thanks po!

  4. Hi, Lily! If you seem sleepy and tired even after a good night's sleep, then maybe it's time to get checked by a sleep doctor. Let's hope you don't have sleep apnea and that you're just a chronic snorer. But snoring in itself is a problem and a sleep doctor can help you deal with it. :)

  5. Hindi naman po ako nag-snore, but sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and find myself gasping for air. hehe. Thanks po. :)

  6. Are these studies conclusive? I wonder how "relaxed" muscles (sleep apnoea) in the throat and cause a heightened cancer risk...

  7. Hi Andy, it has always been theorized before that chronic habits (eating, sleeping, exercising or lack thereof) influence our health. This study helped establish one of the theories. But more research has to be done to determine if it is sleep apnea per se and/ or the lack of a good sleep that increases the cancer death risk.

    As for your question regarding how sleep apnea can possibly heighten cancer risk, I discussed chronic hypoxia and its relation to cancer in the article - feel free to browse through it again. :)