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Ward off cancer with better sleep

30-07-2014

Ward off cancer with better sleep

It seems that cancer is connected with almost any and every human activity. It seems like almost every time you look at the news you will see a new study linking cancer to something, from Coca Cola to cell phones, from tight trousers to smoking. Well, today will be no different, though this time the connection is a positive one rather than the discovery of another carcinogen. It seems that you can ward off cancer with better sleep (though obviously this can be phrased in a negative manner... we just wanted some positive cancer news for once!).

The study

It seems that sleep quality plays a factor in cancer. A new study by the University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital, that was published online January 21, 2014, in the journal Cancer Research, found that the more people wake during the night the faster cancer cells grow, the more aggressive tumours become and the less effective the immune systems’ capacity to fight early cancer becomes. This study was the first to show the consequences of fragmented sleep on a tumour’s growth and invasiveness.

The good news

The good news is that this study could help pinpoint a biological method of targeting cancer. As the study director David Gozal says, “It’s not the tumor, it’s the immune system. Fragmented sleep changes how the immune system deals with cancer in ways that make the disease more aggressive. Fortunately, our study also points to a potential drug target. Toll-like receptor 4, a biological messenger, helps control activation of the innate immune system. It appears to be a lynchpin for the cancer-promoting effects of sleep loss. The effects of fragmented sleep that we focused on were not seen in mice that lacked this protein.”

In depth

Gozal is an expert on sleep apnea and was lead to study cancer and sleep when he saw two studies that found a connection between sleep apnea and a raise in cancer mortality. He realised that there must be something occurring ‘under the hood’ that created this connection so he and his associates started experimenting on the impacts of broken sleep on cancer.

Poor mice

They decided to use mice for their experiment, breaking them into a variety of study groups. During the mice’s sleep period they used a motorised brush to go through half the mice groups every two minutes, disturbing their sleep. The control groups were not woken.

The findings

After a week of broken sleep all the mice were injected with cells from two different types of tumours and all the mice developed tumours of their own within 12 days. A month later these tumours were examined by the researchers. The tumours from mice with fragmented sleep were a shocking twice as big as those from mice that had slept normally.

The take home

This is pretty grim news for those people who suffer from broken sleep. Not only do they get up in the morning feeling terrible but it seems that they are more likely to suffer the impacts of cancer more seriously. The good news is that sleeping more can help you fight cancer.


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