Weightlifting program does not increase risk of lymphedema in breast cancer survivors

December 03, 2015

The researchers found that the proportion of women who experienced new BCRL onset was 11 percent (8 of 72) in the weight lifting intervention group and 17 percent (13 of 75) in the control group. "Among women with 5 or more lymph nodes removed, the proportion who experienced incident BCRL onset was 7 percent (3 of 45) in the weight lifting intervention group and 22 percent (11 of 49) in the control group. Clinician-defined BCRL onset occurred in 1 woman in the weight lifting intervention group and 3 women in the control group (1.5 percent vs. 4.4 percent)."

"The majority of breast cancer survivors do not have lymphedema; however, they alter the use of their arms and upper body activities out of fear of developing lymphedema. The findings from our trial should help clarify clinical advice to patients who have completed breast cancer treatment regarding the safety of resuming or beginning a weight lifting program," the authors write.

The researchers note that the primary goal of this study was to test safety of weight lifting, not superiority, and that additional research is needed before concluding that weight lifting prevents lymphedema. "However, even with the finding of no harm, our results combined with previously published results for women with breast cancer-related lymphedema suggest that the many health benefits of weight lifting should now become available to all breast cancer survivors."

Source: JAMA