(HealthDay News) — Severe, untreated cases of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are associated with more aggressive melanomas, according to findings presented at the annual meeting of the American Thoracic Society, held from May 13 to 18 in San Francisco.

The study involved 412 patients, averaging 55 years of age, all of whom had confirmed cases of cutaneous malignant melanoma. All of the patients were also studied to gauge how well they slept.

The researchers found that OSA was more common and severe for patients diagnosed with the most aggressive cancers. This was true even when they factored out other risk factors for melanoma such as age, gender, weight, skin type, and sun exposure.

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“This is the first large, prospective multicenter study that was specifically constructed to look at the relationship between sleep apnea and a specific cancer,” study author Miguel Angel Martinez-Garcia, M.D., Ph.D., from La Fe University and Polytechnic Hospital in Valencia, Spain, explained in an American Thoracic Society news release. “While more research is needed, this study shows that patients in the study had markers of poor prognosis for their melanoma. It also highlights the importance of diagnosing and treating sleep apnea.”

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