Lung cancer is one of the deadliest types of the big C out there, with only 18 percent surviving more than five years, according to the National Cancer Institute.
That’s why a greater understanding of what’s driving the disease is important.
Smoking, obviously, is the most important factor, but can other behaviors play a role, too?
Turns out, what’s going on in your bedroom might be messing with your lungs: How long you sleep may actually affect your risk of lung cancer, a new study in Cancer Prevention Research suggests.
In the study, researchers surveyed over 42,000 farmers from China on their sleep habits over different time periods in their lives.
They discovered that men who slept less than seven hours a day from the ages of 41 to 50 were up to 39 percent more likely to die of lung cancer than those who slept a solid eight per night.
And men who slept more than 10 hours a day during those years were more than twice as likely to die of lung cancer.
Basically, not getting enough sleep—and getting too much of it—both raised their risks of dying of lung cancer.
The relationship was most apparent when looking at sleeping habits in men in mid to later life.
When crunching the data, the researchers took into account other things that can up their lung cancer risk, like smoking history—the vast majority of these men smoked—how long they smoked, and whether they used smoky coal for heat or cooking.
Even after adjustment, the link between sleep duration and deaths from lung cancer still remained.
Both sleep deprivation and overabundance can mess with hormone levels, immune function, and metabolism.
The sleep hormone melatonin in particular has been shown to have properties that thwart unregulated cell division—a driver of cancer development, the researchers say.
Still, more research needs to be done to confirm a link, especially on a population more indicative of demographics in our country. (Since the participants were farmers, they can’t say for sure that the shift work, which messed with their circadian rhythms, couldn’t have played a role.)
Meanwhile, if you want to protect your lungs, quit smoking for good—three former smokers who finally kicked the habit tell you how.
And filling up your plate with foods high in carotenoids, like carrots, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes, can help reduce your risk, too, as we recently reported.