Research as part of a 22-year study found snoring increased a person’s risk of developing cancer five-fold.
‘Sleep-disordered breathing’ (SDB) such as sleep apnoea deprives the body of oxygen as sufferers struggle to breathe as their airway collapses while asleep.
Scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the US found that low blood oxygen levels can encourage the growth of vessels that feed cancerous tumours.
Cancer rates of more than 1,500 people with SDB were analysed, revealing those with ‘severe’ cases were 4.8 times more likely to develop cancer than others.
People classed as having ‘moderate’ SDB were at double the risk of people without SDB, while those with ‘minor’ cases had a 10 per cent increase in risk.
Since snoring is commonly found in those who are overweight, and obesity is a cause of cancer, the researchers took the weight of study participants into account.
What they found was that the link between snoring and cancer rates was still consistent in sufferers regardless of weight. In fact, more participants of a healthy weight range developed cancer than overweight participants.
"The consistency of the evidence from the animal experiments and this new epidemiologic evidence in humans is highly compelling,” the study’s lead author Dr Javier Nieto said.
"Ours is the first study to show an association between SDB and an elevated risk of cancer mortality in a population-based sample."
Dr Nieto said if further research confirms the study, the findings could improve cancer diagnoses in the future.
The results will be published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.