Upper Extremity Exercise in Older Breast Cancer Survivors: Benefits of Dragon Boat Paddling


This review presents research on exercise, particularly upper extremity exercise, by breast cancer survivors, including participants in survivor dragon boat paddling and racing. While previous dogma held that women who had undergone breast cancer treatment needed to minimize upper extremity use, several studies have demonstrated that upper body exercise does not cause or exacerbate lymphedema, maintains muscle strength, and prevents bone loss. Two papers encourage survivors to reduce sedentary behavior and engage in 150 min or more of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week. Other studies have examined the effects of cancer treatments on lymphedema, use of compression garments when exercising to prevent lymphedema, and effects of exercise on side effects of breast cancer treatment. Three articles present research on effects and benefits of dragon boat paddling and racing after breast cancer treatment: cardiac function improvement, paddling using the skeletal muscles producing a beneficial factor, myokines, effects on lymphedema, and other cancer aftereffects. The review includes data from an Internet survey of women aged 60 and over who dragon boat paddle.

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Correspondence to Mary H. Parker.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

The Institutional Review Board of the George Mason University approved the questionnaire and informed consent document used in the Internet survey.

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This article is part of the Topical Collection on Hematology and Oncology

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Parker, M.H., Campbell, S. & Weinstein, A.A. Upper Extremity Exercise in Older Breast Cancer Survivors: Benefits of Dragon Boat Paddling. Curr Geri Rep 5, 226–232 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13670-016-0185-6

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  • Older breast cancer survivors
  • Whole body exercise
  • Lymphedema
  • Myokines
  • Cancer treatment aftereffects
  • Dragon boat paddling