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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Physical and psychosocial benefits of yoga in cancer patients and survivors, a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

Laurien M Buffart1*, Jannique GZ van Uffelen23, Ingrid I Riphagen4, Johannes Brug1, Willem van Mechelen5, Wendy J Brown3 and Mai JM Chinapaw5

Author Affiliations

1 EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, VU University Medical Center, Van der Boechorststraat 7, Amsterdam, 1081 BT, The Netherlands

2 Institute of Sport, Exercise and Active Living, Victoria University, Victoria, Australia

3 School of Human Movement Studies, The University of Queensland, Queensland, Australia

4 Faculty of Medicine, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway

5 EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, Department of Public and Occupational Health, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

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BMC Cancer 2012, 12:559  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-12-559

Published: 27 November 2012

Abstract

Background

This study aimed to systematically review the evidence from randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and to conduct a meta-analysis of the effects of yoga on physical and psychosocial outcomes in cancer patients and survivors.

Methods

A systematic literature search in ten databases was conducted in November 2011. Studies were included if they had an RCT design, focused on cancer patients or survivors, included physical postures in the yoga program, compared yoga with a non-exercise or waitlist control group, and evaluated physical and/or psychosocial outcomes. Two researchers independently rated the quality of the included RCTs, and high quality was defined as >50% of the total possible score. Effect sizes (Cohen’s d) were calculated for outcomes studied in more than three studies among patients with breast cancer using means and standard deviations of post-test scores of the intervention and control groups.

Results

Sixteen publications of 13 RCTs met the inclusion criteria, of which one included patients with lymphomas and the others focused on patients with breast cancer. The median quality score was 67% (range: 22–89%). The included studies evaluated 23 physical and 20 psychosocial outcomes. Of the outcomes studied in more than three studies among patients with breast cancer, we found large reductions in distress, anxiety, and depression (d = −0.69 to −0.75), moderate reductions in fatigue (d = −0.51), moderate increases in general quality of life, emotional function and social function (d = 0.33 to 0.49), and a small increase in functional well-being (d = 0.31). Effects on physical function and sleep were small and not significant.

Conclusion

Yoga appeared to be a feasible intervention and beneficial effects on several physical and psychosocial symptoms were reported. In patients with breast cancer, effect size on functional well-being was small, and they were moderate to large for psychosocial outcomes.

Keywords:
Yoga; Randomized controlled trial; Physical function; Psychosocial function; Quality of life; Cancer