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Study links moderate to severe OSA with serious health risks

Tuesday April 15, 2014
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Moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea is independently associated with an increased risk of stroke, cancer and death, according to an Australian study.

Results of the 20-year follow-up study, published in the April 15 issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, show people with moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea were four times more likely to die, nearly four times more likely to have a stroke, three times more likely to die from cancer, and 2.5 times more likely to develop cancer.

Results were adjusted for potential confounding factors such as body mass index, smoking status, total cholesterol and blood pressure.

“Sleep apnea is a common disease that has a powerful impact on public health because it greatly increases the risk of strokes, cancers and mortality from any cause,” lead author Nathaniel S. Marshall, PhD, senior lecturer in clinical trials at the University of Sydney in Australia, said in a news release.

The study involved 397 adults who are participating in the ongoing Busselton Health Study. Objective sleep data were gathered in 1990 using a portable home sleep testing device. Participants with a history of stroke or cancer were excluded from selected analyses.

Prevalence rates were 4.6% for moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea and 20.6% for mild OSA. During the 20-year follow-up period there were 77 deaths and 31 strokes, as well as 125 cancer events that included 39 fatalities. Mild sleep apnea was not associated with increased health risks.

The authors noted that the results of their study are consistent with the findings of previous research conducted in the U.S. and Spain.

The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine is published by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Study abstract: www.aasmnet.org/JCSM/ViewAbstract.aspx?pid=29425

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