Sleep Apnea and Melanoma: There is a Connection

Researchers in the medical community have long been aware that various associations often exist between different conditions and diseases. How these diseases interact and why these connections occur, however, are often difficult questions to answer. Links between sleep apnea and other medical conditions has become a rich area of investigation for researchers. One of the more serious of these associations is that between sleep apnea and melanoma.

The connection has to do with the severity of the patient’s sleep apnea and the aggressiveness of the skin cancer. More information will be needed before all of the findings can be explained. However, it is clear that a link exists between the two diseases, and a strong one at that. In fact, predictions about the progress of skin cancer can actually be made, based on the degree of severity of the sleep apnea.

In a study of sleep apnea and skin cancer, researchers tracked a number of persons who suffered with both conditions. The participants in the study were grouped according to the intensity of their sleep apnea. The participants in the study were monitored for such things as the levels of oxygen in the blood during sleep. The researchers also kept careful track of their patient’s cancer. It was soon noticed that those with severe sleep apnea also showed a faster progression of cancer. In fact, the more advanced the sleep apnea, the more aggressive the cancer. This finding was so pronounced, researchers were able to determine in advance how the cancer would progress, based simply on the intensity of the patient’s sleep apnea. 

Just why sleep apnea and melanoma have a connection and, especially, why the cancer becomes more aggressive as the sleep apnea worsens, is not fully understood. One possibility, which will require further research, is that lower oxygen levels may play a role. Another promising area of research is to study patients who have sleep apnea and other types of cancer. Will the severity of sleep apnea also be predictive of the rate of progression of other cancers? For now, doctors will be on the lookout for signs of worsening skin cancer in their patients who present with moderate to severe sleep apnea. People with sleep apnea should also be made aware of this connection. Careful monitoring and early treatment can have positive effects on both conditions.