Cancer and Snoring: Is There a Connection?

cancerYou have already heard that snoring is often associated with obesity, lack of exercising, and poor lifestyle choices. You know that it can be a symptom of an underlying sleep disorder, and you may even be aware firsthand that it can really put a strain on your relationship.

What you may not know is that it is now also linked to cancer. If you are gasping and finding yourself in a state of instant panic, you are experiencing a common reaction. Cancer is scary. It is often the biggest fear of those who have lost loved ones to any form of the disease.

So, to hear that snoring could increase your risk for developing cancer is pretty frightening.

You are probably full of a tremendous number of questions. This article should help you understand a little more why it is so important to take necessary steps to stop snoring.

Do You Know How Disruptive Your Sleep Is?

Do you ever wake up in the morning and just feel drained? Maybe you even made a point to be in bed extra early because you needed to be bright-eyed for your morning meeting, but you woke up just as tired as nights you slept only a few hours. Your snoring is likely to blame.

When you fall asleep and your tongue and jaw fall backward in your relaxed state, tissues of your soft palate and throat are permitted to vibrate. This causes the snoring sound. Sounds pretty harmless, right? Wrong! What this means is that your airflow is obstructed!

Your lungs need just as much oxygen when you are sleeping as when you are awake. So, if tissues are obstructing the airflow the body has to work even hard to get oxygen. This makes it very difficult for your brain to relax and recharge because it has to constantly monitor you.

It should also be noted that you may assume your snoring is just that, but it could be a symptom of obstructive sleep apnea. In this case, the brain has to work even harder through the night to keep you alive because it often has to wake you up so you move your jaw and clear the obstruction.

All of this amounts to poor sleep quality. It does not matter how many hours you sleep. If your body does not spend time in sleep stages 3, 4, or REM then you are not fully recharging your battery.

This leaves you feeling tired the next day. You might not remember waking up, but your body does. So, where’s the cancer connection? Well, snoring robs you of sleep, and poor sleep increases your risk for cancer.

The Hormonal Influence

Cortisol and melatonin are both altered by sleep problems. These are two hormones that influence cancer cells. Cortisol is responsible for regulating immune system activity. It actually releases certain cells that battle cancer. Levels of cortisol peak at dawn, after you should have slept a few hours.

They then gradually decline during the day. Individuals who wake up repeatedly throughout the night have an increased risk of experiencing abnormal cortisol patterns. This means that your body is not properly releasing natural cancer-killing cells, as it should.

The second hormone is the one women really have to worry about. Melatonin is produced by your brain while you sleep. It contains antioxidant properties that prevent cell damage that can result in cancer. Melatonin also decreases estrogen production. Unfortunately, too little sleep results in low levels of melatonin, so the ovaries are permitted to produce excessive estrogen. This increases the risk for breast cancer.

Sleep plays a leading role on hormonal patterns that can result in a rapid progression of cancer. As a snorer, your sleep is compromised, and therefore there is a good chance your hormones are not properly balanced.

Poor Sleep and the Immune System

A study at the University of Chicago showed that interrupted sleep accelerates cancer growth, hinders the immune system’s ability to fight early stages of cancer, and increases tumor aggressiveness. The findings point to TLR4, or toll-like receptor 4, a signaling molecule that controls activation of your immune system.

TLR4 is in immune cells within the innate immune system. This is the biological system that defends foreign agents, such as viruses and bacteria. This system is also responsible for fighting cancer. However, sometimes it fails because it does not recognize the cancer cells as foreign objects.

Macrophages, which are tumor-associated immune cells, cluster at the tumor site and dictate how the immune system responds to the cancer. Basically, they respond with whatever signal they are given. They can be either M1 or M2.

  • M1 – This variety promotes a very strong immune response, which eliminates tumor cells.
  • M2 – These cells suppress immune response. So, instead of promoting new blood vessel growth they encourage tumor growth instead.

In the conducted laboratory experiment at the University of Chicago mice with disrupted sleep predominately had M2 cells. They also had high levels of TLR4. The study tried a number of different cancers and all showed the same results. In a nutshell, poor sleep quality affects your innate immune response, which leaves you at higher risk for cancer.

Final Thoughts

Snoring is not just an audible annoyance; it actually affects your immediate and long-term health. Some feel that since they do not have a bedroom partner, they do not need to make the effort to stop snoring. After all, they cannot hear their own snoring when they are fast asleep.

What is now known though is that it is important for every snorer to make the effort to stop. It does not matter if anyone is listening to you or not.  The snoring is compromising your sleep quality, which can alter your hormones and adversely affect your immune system, both of which increase the risk for cancer.

Fortunately, today, a snoring solution does not necessarily dictate going under the knife. In fact, surgery has become the least common solution, since the market became saturated with so many anti-snoring mouthpieces.

These oral appliances are affordable, and the quality ones are quite comfortable to wear. Trying to choose one is probably more challenging than getting used to wearing one.

The sooner you stop snoring the faster you decrease your risk for cancer and other diseases that poor sleep quality makes you more susceptible to.

Which Product Should I Choose?

questionEvery person has a unique mouth and needs, so one that is perfect for one person may not be the best option for another.

There are well over 100 products on the market, so making a decision can be quite daunting.

You will find a lot of helpful information in the comparison chart, and I have written reviews of several products.

If you would rather not spend a lot of time reading reviews, please consult my article titled “My Mouthpiece Recommendation”. I have compiled a list of three products that I believe are the best options, based on my experience.