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Genetic markers linked to the development of lymphedema in breast cancer survivors
Date:4/16/2013

A new UCSF study has found a clear association between certain genes and the development of lymphedema, a painful and chronic condition that often occurs after breast cancer surgery and some other cancer treatments.

The researchers also learned that the risks of developing lymphedema increased significantly for women who had more advanced breast cancer at the time of diagnosis, more lymph nodes removed or a significantly higher body mass index.

The study is the first to evaluate genetic predictors of lymphedema in a large group of women using a type of technology, bioimpedance spectroscopy, to measure increases in fluid in the arm. Bioimpedance spectroscopy is a noninvasive procedure that allows one to measure body composition including an increase in fluid in an arm or a leg.

The study, which involved some 400 women who were tracked over four to five years, will be published online on April 16, 2013 in PLOS ONE.

"The genetic markers found in our study make perfect sense," said senior author Bradley Aouizerat, PhD, a professor at the UCSF School of Nursing in the department of physiological nursing. "These genes are 'turned on' later in the development of our lymph system and blood vessels. They appear to play a role in the ability of our lymphatic system to function on an ongoing basis. It is possible in some individuals who have changes in these genes, that lymphedema could develop after an injury like breast cancer surgery because these genes do not function properly."

Lymphedema is a swelling or buildup of fluid in the lymphatic tissues, typically in the arms and fingers but also commonly in the patient's legs and trunk. It can occur after treatment for any form of cancer that affects lymph node drainage. The exact prevalence is unknown, and the onset of the condition can greatly vary, but as many as 56 percent of women who undergo breast cancer surgery develop lymphedema within two years, according to th
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Contact: Elizabeth Fernandez
elizabeth.fernandez@ucsf.edu
415-502-6397
University of California - San Francisco
Source:Eurekalert

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