By Robert Preidt
"Prostate cancer is one of the leading public health concerns for men, and sleep problems are quite common," said study author Dr. Lara Sigurdardottir, of the University of Iceland in Reykjavik. "If our results are confirmed with further studies, sleep may become a potential target for intervention to reduce the risk for prostate cancer."
Her study included about 2,100 men, aged 67 to 96, in Iceland. They were asked if they took medications to help them sleep, had trouble falling asleep or woke up during nights or early in the morning and had difficulty going back to sleep.
The researchers found that 14.4 percent of the men had severe or very severe sleep problems.
None of the men had prostate cancer at the start of the study. During five years of follow-up, 6.4 percent were diagnosed with prostate cancer, according to the study, which was published May 7 in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.
After adjusting for age, the researchers concluded that men with sleep problems were 1.6 to 2.1 times more likely to develop prostate cancer than those without sleep problems. Risk increased with the severity of sleeping problems.
The association was stronger for advanced prostate cancer than for overall prostate cancer. Those with very severe sleep problems had a more than threefold increased risk of advanced prostate cancer, the researchers found.
"Sleep problems are very common in modern society and can have adverse health consequences," Sigurdardottir said in a journal news release. "Women with sleep disruption have consistently been reported to be at an increased risk for breast cancer, but less is known about the potential role of sleep problems in prostate cancer."
She said these findings need to be confirmed in a larger and longer study.
Although the study found a potential association between sleep problems and prostate cancer, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.