Weightlifting Slashes Lymphedema Risk After Breast Cancer Treatment

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Media Contact:Holly Auer | holly.auer@uphs.upenn.edu | 215-349-5659 December 8, 2010

(SAN ANTONIO) -- Weightlifting may play a key role in a program to prevent 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 at the 33rd Annual CTRC-AACR 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 arm swelling, 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.”

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