The first multicenter-prospective study on the relationship between cancer and sleep-disordered breathing recently occurred. Crucial findings were discovered. The study revealed a link between untreated sleep apnea and an increased aggressiveness of malignant cutaneous melanoma.

Researching Melanoma Aggressiveness

Most research into sleep apnea establishes that there is a relationship between the disorder and heart disease. However, the researchers who conducted the multicenter study wanted to know if the condition could also be related to cancer.

According to the CDC, in 2012 alone, more than 1.5 million American were diagnosed with cancer, and more than 500,000 Americans died of this disease. Globally, 14.1 million new cancer cases were diagnosed in 2012. Every day scientists are trying to learn more about this prevalent illness.

The new study involved 24 teaching hospitals that are part of the Spanish Sleep and Breathing Network. The researchers examined the progress of 412 patients with confirmed cases of cutaneous malignant melanoma. Patients with melanoma were chosen because this form of cancer can be easily observed and measured.

Patients underwent a sleep study, and researchers discovered that those with the most aggressive cancers were more likely to have a severe case of obstructive sleep apnea.

“Based on our study, it seems a relationship between sleep apnea and cancer may also exist. It is very important, however, that people with sleep apnea do not infer that they will necessarily develop cancer,” said lead author, Miguel Ángel Martinez-Garcia, MD, PhD, from Hospital Universitario y Politécnico La Fe, Valencia, Spain.

Dr. Martinez-Garcia suggests that “People who snore, frequently wake up at night or have daytime sleepiness should see a sleep specialist, especially if they have other risk factors for cancer or already have cancer. Physicians—especially dermatologists, cancer surgeons and medical oncologists—should ask their patients about potential sleep apnea symptoms, and refer them for a sleep study if they have these symptoms.”

While more research is needed, this research hints at a link between the two conditions. Hopefully more doctors, like the ones who participated in this study, will learn more about the relationship between melanoma and sleep apnea.