Insomnia can double the risk of prostate cancer in men, a study has shown.
The risk rises proportionately with the severity of sleep problems, researchers found, increasing from 1.6 to 2.1 times the usual level.
Why poor sleep can affect men’s chances of developing the disease is unexplained. But a previous link has been seen between insomnia and breast cancer in women.
More than 3,000 cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed in Ireland each year.
The researchers studied more than 2,000 men aged 67 to 96. They were asked if they took sleeping pills, had trouble falling asleep, had difficult going back to sleep after waking in the night, or woke early and stayed awake.
Among the participants, between 8.7% and 5.7% reported severe and very severe sleep problems. None had prostate cancer at the start of the study, which continued for five years.
In that time, 6.4% were diagnosed with prostate cancer. Those suffering from insomnia were much more likely to develop the disease.
The findings are published in the American Association for Cancer Research journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.
Study leader Lara Sigurdardottir of the University of Iceland said: “If our results are confirmed with further studies, sleep may become a potential target for intervention to reduce the risk of prostate cancer.”
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