Catch your Z’s and catch them often. Researchers have found that, along with a higher risk of obesity, heart disease and diabetes, an inadequate amount of sleep can put you at risk of colon cancer. The groundbreaking study furthers the proof that we should all take steps to improve our sleep if it’s being continually disrupted.
The study, published in “Cancer,” found that people who averaged less than six hours of sleep at night had an almost 50% increase in the risk of colorectal adenomas compared to those who got seven or more hours per night. Adenomas are a precursor to cancer tumors and, left untreated, they can turn malignant.
This may be the first study to show a serious link between the amount of sleep you get and colorectal adenomas. A short amount of sleep can now be viewed as a new risk factor for the development of the development of colon cancer. And, as it turns out, that one hour, from six hours to seven a night, is important. The benchmark moving forward is to aim for seven good quality hours with the Sandman.
In the study, patients were surveyed before undergoing colonoscopies. Of the 1,240 patients, 338 were diagnosed with colorectal adenomas at their colonoscopy. The patients with adenomas were found in general to have reported sleeping less than six hours compared to those patients without adenomas (control) patients. The link between amount of sleep and adenomas stayed the same even when adjusted for family history, smoking, and waist-to-hip ratio (how they measure obesity).
Trying to understand the risk, you can consider it like this: it’s the same level of greater risk that you’d have if a parent or sibling had colon cancer. As well, it’s the same degree of risk as having a high red meat intake. The key is that we need to increase our duration of sleep and improve quality of sleep to help prevent colorectal cancer.
Why fewer hours of sleep may lead to colon cancer is unknown. Theories include that less sleep means less production of melatonin — that natural hormone linked to cellular repair — and that insulin resistance may play a role in sleep and cancer development.
In any event, if you are not getting good sleep over a long period of time, you need to consider it a serious factor working against your health. That’s where we need to get to in society.