University Hospitals Logo Colon cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, apparently is the third leading cause of death among cancer patients. When a person is diagnosed with colon cancer, several tests may be undertaken to affirm whether the disease a benign or malignant. Well, a novel risk factor for this life-threatening ailment has now surfaced into the health zone. A recent study from the University Hospitals (UH) Case Medical Center and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine suggests that lack of sleep can raise the risk of colon cancer.

It was mentioned that individuals who averagely slept for less than six hours at night probably had over 50 percent higher chances of colorectal adenomas than those sleeping at least seven hours per night. Known as a precursor to cancer tumors, adenomas when left untreated may turn malignant. During the study, patients were surveyed over the phone before undergoing colonoscopies at UH Case Medical Center. They were asked about their demographic information as well as questions from the Pittsburg Sleep Quality Index (PSQI).

“To our knowledge, this is the first study to report a significant association of sleep duration and colorectal adenomas,” revealed Li, MD, PhD, the study’s principal investigator, family medicine physician in the Department of Family Medicine at UH Case Medical Center and Associate Professor of Family Medicine, Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. “A short amount of sleep can now be viewed as a new risk factor for the development of the development of colon cancer.”

This index apparently covered all information on the patient’s overall sleep quality in the past month. PSQI also asked for data on the frequency of disturbance in trouble sleeping and how much sleep one has had per night. From the total of 1,240 patients, 338 were diagnosed with colorectal adenomas at their colonoscopy. Patients with adenomas in general claimed to have slept less than six hours as compared to those patients without adenomas (control) patients.

Dr Li added, “Short sleep duration is a public health hazard leading not only to obesity, diabetes and coronary heart disease, but also, as we now have shown in this study, colon adenomas. Effective intervention to increase duration of sleep and improve quality of sleep could be an under-appreciated avenue for prevention of colorectal cancer.”

The link between amount of sleep and adenomas appeared even after adjusting for family history, smoking, and waist-to-hip ratio. A slightly stronger association of sleep duration with adenomas in women than men was registered. However, the difference may not be statistically significant. It is assumed that the magnitude of the heightened risk due to less hours of sleep is comparable to the threat associated with having a first-degree relative suffering from colon cancer, as well as high intake of red meat.

The study will be published in the February 15, 2011 issue of the journal Cancer.