PURPOSE - The main purpose was to examine longitudinally the influence of body mass index (BMI) and obesity on the development of breast cancer treatment-related lymphedema. We asked, does elevated BMI increase lymphedema risk?
METHODS - A secondary analysis was conducted on de-identified data collected from 138 newly diagnosed breast cancer survivors who had arm-volume measurements and symptom assessment at pre-treatment baseline and measurements up to 30 months post-surgery in a prospective longitudinal parent study. Arm volume and weight data, part of the information collected during each participant visit, were examined.
RESULTS - Breast cancer survivors whose BMI was ≥30 at the time of breast cancer treatment were approximately 3.6 times more likely to develop lymphedema at 6 months or greater after diagnosis than those with a BMI < 30 at the time of cancer treatment (95% confidence interval, C.I., for odds ratio, O.R., 1.42-9.04; p = 0.007). Those with a general BMI increase or a BMI rise to 30 or greater during their first 30 months of survivorship were not more likely to develop late-onset lymphedema than those who did not have similar changes in BMI.
CONCLUSIONS - Pre-treatment BMI may be a risk factor for lymphedema. Weight gain post-treatment may not be. Further research is warranted.