Sleep Apnea is Disabling and May Cause Cancer

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Sleep apnea has been known to be a disabling and potentially life-threatening condition. According to two new studies recently presented to the American Thoracic Society, patients should add cancer to the list of the disease’s potential complications. See New York Times, May 20, 2012.

The results are startling. Researchers in Spain found that patients who experienced a blood oxygen level below 90 percent at night for up to 12 percent of the time they slept were 68 percent more likely to develop cancer than those who did not experience breathing problems at night. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health–who had been running sleep studies since 1989–determined that patients with moderate sleep apnea were twice as likely, and those with severe apnea were 4.8 times more likely, to die of cancer over the course of the study.

The results of these new studies are especially telling, since researchers controlled for common variables such as age, smoking, alcohol use, weight, and lack of exercise. The researchers determined that the connection between sleep apnea and cancer remained even in the absence of these variables.

Sleep apnea has long been established as causing fatigue and cognitive impairment, somewhat subjective symptoms which can potentially be difficult to prove to an insurance company. Hopefully, insurers will take a more serious look at the dangers of the disease with the publication of this new medical information.

We at Bonny G. Rafel have represented patients with sleep apnea, and can assist in ensuring that your insurance company understands the severity and disabling nature of your condition.

– By Sara E. Kaplan, Esq.

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