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Weight training safe for women at risk of lymphoedema.

A new trial should lay to rest any lingering doubts about the safety of controlled weight lifting for women at risk of lymphoedema after treatment for breast cancer, say researchers. Women introduced to weight training slowly over 13 weeks had no more new-onset lymphoedema than controls given usual care. In fact, they had less (11% (8/72) v. 17% (13/75); cumulative incidence ratio 0.64, 95% CI 0.28 - 1.45), although the trial wasn't designed to look at effectiveness, just safety, and the difference wasn't significant.

Participants joined the trial an average of 3 years after their cancer diagnosis. All had surgery, which included removal of between 2 and 26 lymph nodes. Most also had chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Women assigned to weight training started slowly with specially trained fitness instructors at a local gym. Twice a week they did bicep curls, triceps pushdowns, seated rowing, and lower body exercises. Instructors gradually increased the workload, guided by symptoms. Attendance was good, and the women got stronger and lost more body fat than controls during the year.

These findings should reassure women at risk of lymphoedema that resistance training is safe, so long as you take it carefully. Lifting weights may even help prevent lymphoedema, and bigger trials should now be done to explore this possibility, say the researchers.

Schmitz KH et al. JAMA 2010;304:2699-2705.
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Title Annotation:ABSTRACTS
Publication:CME: Your SA Journal of CPD
Date:Jan 1, 2011
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