More than 238,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer in the United States each year, according to the American Cancer Society. Approximately 1 in 6 men will be diagnosed with the disease at some point in their lifetime. What if the quality of sleep plays a role in a man’s risk for developing the disease?
That’s the question posed by a new study examining the link between prostate cancer and disrupted sleep. It’s just the latest in a wave of research in recent years that has discovered links between poor sleep and several types of cancer. The results of the latest study suggest that men who have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep—two common symptoms of insomnia—may be at twice the risk of developing prostate cancer.
Researchers from the University of Iceland in Reykjavik followed 2,102 men over a period of five years. The men were all part of a large public-health study in Iceland that included more than 2,000 men between the ages 67-96. None of the men had prostate cancer at the time the study began. At the study’s outset, researchers asked all the men four questions related to their sleep:
After observing the men for five years, and adjusting for factors such as age, researchers found that poor sleep was associated with elevated risk for prostate cancer:
This study adds to the growing body of research showing evidence of a relationship between poor sleep and risk for prostate cancer and other types of cancer. No direct, causal link has been established between sleep problems and the onset of cancer. But several studies in recent years have shown strong associations between risk levels for cancer and poor, insufficient, and disrupted sleep:
We’re still at the early stages of understanding just how significant a role sleep may play as a risk factor in the development of cancer. This is an important area of study that could have a significant impact on prevention and screening, and perhaps even treatment of the disease. The prospect of a connection between sleep and cancer risk is yet another very important reason to maintain healthy sleep habits.
Michael J. Breus, PhD
The Sleep Doctor™