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Weightlifting slashes lymphedema risk after breast cancer treatment
Date:12/8/2010

(SAN ANTONIO) -- Weightlifting may play a key role in the prevention of the painful limb-swelling condition lymphedema following breast cancer treatment, according to new research from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Combined with the team's previous findings that the exercise limits a worsening of symptoms among women who already have lymphedema, the new data cements the reversal of long-running advice that breast cancer survivors should avoid lifting anything heavier than five pounds after they finish treatment. The research results will be presented today (Dec. 8, 2010) at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium and published online concurrently in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"Lymphedema is a dreaded, common side effect of breast cancer treatment. Women worry that they will recover from their cancer only to be plagued by this condition that often limits their ability to work, maintain their homes, and care for their children or grandchildren," says lead author Kathryn Schmitz, PhD, MPH, an associate professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and a member of Penn's Abramson Cancer Center. "Our study shows that they now have a weapon to reduce their risk of developing lymphedema, and at the same time, reap the many other health rewards of weightlifting that they have missed out on due to decades of advice to avoid lifting so much as a grocery bag or their purse."

The researchers enrolled 154 breast cancer survivors without lymphedema who had breast cancer within the previous five years. Overall, they found that a slowly progressive weightlifting regimen cut risk of developing the condition during the yearlong study by 35 percent: Eleven percent of women in the weightlifting treatment group developed lymphedema, compared to 17 percent of those in the control group, who did not change their normal physical activity level. Among women who had five or more lymph nodes removed during surgery, the
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Contact: Holly Auer
holly.auer@uphs.upenn.edu
215-349-5659
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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