Lack of Sleep Increases Risk of Colon Polyps
Researchers at University Hospitals Case Medical Center and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine have established that low amounts of sleep is associated with higher risk of colorectal adenomasor polyps, which can become cancerous if left untreated.
How much — or rather, how little — someone sleeps each day contributed to a nearly 50 percent increase in the risk of developing colon cancer in the study group comprising1,240 UH patients getting routine colonoscopies.
Precancerous polyps were diagnosed in 338of them, or27.3 percent. None of the patients had been previously diagnosed with colon cancer or polyps.
A colonoscopy and other screening tools are key in helping identify and remove polyps before they become cancerous. Other ways to lower one’s risk of colon cancer include following a healthy diet (lots of fruits and vegetables, little red meat and processed meat) and maintaining a healthy weight.
On average, patients in the UH-CWRU study who developed the polyps managed less than six hours of sleep (shift work and self-reported sleep apnea were among the contributors), compared with patients who slept at least seven hours a day.
Within the last five years, sleep disturbance has received wide attention in terms of its relationship to disease. When it comes down to colon cancer, it is comparable to other known risk factors for other cancers such as breast cancer.
Previous studies have blamed lack of sleep for slowing down the body’s production of melatonin, a natural hormone that controls the natural sleep cycle.
“If melatonin levels are low, it could cause DNA damage and compromised immunity,” said Li, who underscored that it was the duration of sleep — and not quality of sleep — that is the big concern. Lack of sleep ranks right up there with high red meat consumption and having a close relative with colon cancer as a risk factor, he said.
The Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, which obtains information about a person’s overall sleep habits during the past month, has been used to link sleep deprivation to obesity and other types of cancers.
While the journal Cancer would not provide specific information about how the local study landed on the cover, it cited several criteria. Among them: the subject is of critical interest to segments of the larger oncology community; the subject is extremely topical/current/contemporary; and the subject is an area of potential controversy.
Modifying one’s behavior can lower the risk of colon polyps. Even if that means just adding an extra 30 minutes of sleep, It makes a big difference.
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