The association between sleep and cancer is a complex one, as researchers have yet to identify a cause-and effect relationship. While researchers do know that regularly getting too little sleep increases the risk of cancer overall, a recent study suggests a lack of sleep may specifically increase the risk of aggressive breast cancer.
Researchers from the University Hospitals Case Medical Center’s Seidman Cancer Center and the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center at Case Western Reserve University found that sleeping too little, defined getting 6 hours of sleep or less, seemed to increase the risk of cancer recurring among post menopausal breast cancer patients.
The study included 412 breast cancer patients who were all post-menopausal. The patients were tested with Oncotype DX, which is a tool used to predict whether cancer will recur. Sleep habits for the past 2 years were also analyzed of each patient.
An association between receiving a higher score on the Oncotype DX test and decreased sleep was found. The results suggest that a lack of sleep may cause more aggressive tumors, but more research will need to be done to verify and understand the association.
Interestingly, researchers said they didn’t find a link between aggressive breast cancer and pre-menopausal breast cancer patients, which suggests that cancers among pre-menopausal women and post-menopausal women may work differently.
Study Li Li, M.D., Ph.D., said in a statement, “Effective intervention to increase duration of sleep and improve quality of sleep could be an under-appreciated avenue for reducing the risk of developing more aggressive breast cancers and recurrence.”
It is very common for cancer patients specifically have problems with getting quality sleep. Medications, treatments, stress, and physical pain are all factors that can cause disrupted sleep. The problems may even continue long after cancer treatment I has concluded.
So how can post-menopausal cancer patients get closer to ending the cycle of not sleeping and increasing risk of recurring cancer? Find out a long-term solution for your sleep problems here!