Lack Of Sleep Claims Another Victim: Colon Cancer

Get your beauty sleep to lower your risk of many diseases.: image via mylot.comGet your beauty sleep to lower your risk of many diseases.: image via Sleeplessness may be romantic as a movie treatment but, in reality, chronic lack of sleep, irregular sleep, or insufficient sleep puts you at higher risk for heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and now colon cancer - a much bigger risk.

University Hospitals (UH) Case Medical Centers and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine  surveyed 1,240 patients before their scheduled colonoscopies about their sleep quality during the prior month. Questions from the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) were included among other questions related to family history, smoking, and waist-to-hip ratio.

About 28 percent of the patients undergoing colonoscopies were diagnosed with cancerous colorectal adenomas, or polyps.  These patients, in general, reported having less than 6 hours of sleep per night compared to more hours of sleep for those who did not have colorectal cancers  The associated high risk of adenomas remained specific for lack of sleep, even when adjusted for family history, smoking, and waist-to-hip ratio.

Li Li, MD, PhD, the study’s principal investigator, said that "effective intervention to increase duration of sleep and improve quality of sleep could be an under-appreciated avenue for prevention of colorectal cancer."  

Of course, longer hours and better quality of sleep should be a goal to prevent the many now known diseases affected by sleep deprivation but, at least in this study, the risk of colon cancer related to inadequate sleep is about the same risk as immediate family history and high red meat intake.

Why this risk is so high is not known.  Dr. Li said some theories have to do with lower production of melatonin, which is linked to DNA repair or that, because lack of sleep is also linked to diabetes, insulin resistance may underlie the connection between sleep deprivation and colon cancer.