Men who have trouble falling and staying asleep have up to double the risk of developing prostate cancer, new research suggests.
Previous research looking at the impact of shift work and interrupted sleep on the development of prostate cancer produced conflicting results, so for the latest study scientists investigated the influence of sleep on the disease, said Lara G. Sigurdardóttir, M.D., at the University of Iceland in Reykjavik
"Sleep problems are very common in modern society and can have adverse health consequences," Sigurdardóttir said. "Women with sleep disruption have consistently been reported to be at an increased risk for breast cancer, but less is known about the potential role of sleep problems in prostate cancer."
For the study, which was published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, 2,102 men were followed. Participants answered four sleep-related questions about whether they took sleep medications, had difficulty falling asleep, woke up at night and had trouble returning to sleep, or awoke early in the morning and had trouble falling asleep again.
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The study participants were from the prospective Age, Gene/Environment Susceptibility-Reykjavik study, which involved an established, population-based cohort of 2,425 men, aged 67 to 96. None of the participants had prostate cancer at the beginning of the study. During the five years the participants were followed, 6.4 percent were diagnosed with prostate cancer. Of the participants, 8.7 percent and 5.7 percent reported severe and very severe sleep problems, respectively.
After adjusting for age, researchers reported that the risk for prostate cancer increased proportionately with reported severity of difficulties falling and remaining asleep—from 1.6-fold to 2.1 fold. The association was stronger for advanced prostate cancer than for overall prostate cancer—more than a threefold jump in risk for advanced cancer was correlated with sleep problems characterized as “very severe.”
To make sure the results could not be attributed to undiagnosed prostate cancer or an enlarged prostate, researchers excluded men reporting sleep disturbance that might indicate nocturia—waking up to urinate. However, the results remained the same.
Sigurdardóttir said the results should be confirmed in another study involving a larger cohort over a longer period of time.
"Prostate cancer is one of the leading public health concerns for men and sleep problems are quite common," she said. "If our results are confirmed with further studies, sleep may become a potential target for intervention to reduce the risk for prostate cancer."
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