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The Effectiveness of the Sport “Dragon Boat Racing” in Reducing the Risk of Lymphedema Incidence

An Observational Study

Iacorossi, Laura PhD, MSc, RN; Gambalunga, Francesca MSc, RN; Molinaro, Simona RN; De Domenico, Rosaria RN; Giannarelli, Diana MS; Fabi, Alessandra MD

doi: 10.1097/NCC.0000000000000615

Background Upper extremity lymphedema is a complication that often occurs in women with breast cancer as a result of surgery and/or radiotherapy. Some studies report that a boating activity known as the “dragon boat” sport can benefit these women.

Aim The aim of this study was to assess whether this type of sport prevents or reduces lymphedema, its impact on quality of life (QoL), and the possible predictors of this condition.

Methods This was an observational study of 2 groups: group A (women who participated in dragon boat racing for at least 6 months) and group B (women who participated in other forms of physical exercise biweekly). Data were collected at the National Cancer Institute of Rome and the lake of Castel Gandolfo from June to October 2016. The instruments used were a questionnaire created for sociodemographic and clinical data, the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer Core Questionnaire for evaluating QoL, and a tape measure applied to estimate the local lymphedema.

Results One hundred women participated in the study. Lymphedema incidence in group A was 4.0% (2 of 50), whereas in group B it was 26.0% (13 of 50). Women who participated in dragon boat racing also reported a healthier lifestyle, lower body mass index, and a better QoL (set point: 61.8 group B vs 80.0 group A).

Conclusions The dragon boat sport participants had more positive clinical and QoL outcomes than did the women who did not participate in that sporting activity.

Implications for Clinical Practice It would be important to make women with breast cancer aware of the practice of dragon boat racing.

Author Affiliations: “Regina Elena” National Cancer Institute, Rome (Drs Iacorossi and Gambalunga and Ms De Domenico); “Hospice San Francesco,” Rieti (Dr Molinaro); and Biostatistics Unit (Dr Giannarelli) and Division of Medical Oncology A (Dr Fabi), “Regina Elena” National Cancer Institute, Rome, Italy.

Authors' contributions: L.I. and A.F. conceived and designed the study. L.I., F.G., S.M., D.G., and R.D. collected and assembled the data. L.I., F.G., S.M., and A.P. wrote the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

The authors have no funding or conflicts of interest to disclose.

Correspondence: Laura Iacorossi, PhD, MSc, RN, “Regina Elena” National Cancer Institute, Via Elio Chianesi, 53-00144 Rome, Italy (

Accepted for publication March 18, 2018.

Online date: June 22, 2018

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