Seasonal Variation in Upper Limb Size, Volume, Fluid Distribution, and Lymphedema Diagnosis, Following Breast Cancer Treatment

Jennifer Phillips, Susan Witt*, Neil Piller, Susan Gordon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review



Breast cancer-related lymphedema (BCRL) is a common complication of breast cancer treatment. Anecdotal and qualitative research suggests that heat and hot weather cause an exacerbation of BCRL; however, there is little quantitative evidence to support this. The aim of this article is to investigate the relationship between seasonal climate variation and limb size, volume, fluid distribution, and diagnosis in women following breast cancer treatment. 

Methods and Results: 

Women older than the age of 35 years who had undergone treatment for breast cancer were invited to participate. Twenty-five women aged between 38 and 82 years were recruited. Seventy-two percent received surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy as part of their breast cancer treatment. Participants completed anthropometric, circumferential, and bioimpedance measures and a survey on three occasions: November (spring), February (summer), and June (winter). Diagnostic criteria of >2 cm and >200 mL difference between the affected and unaffected arm, and a positive bioimpedance ratio of >1.139 for a dominant arm and >1.066 for nondominant arm was applied across the three measurement occasions. No significant correlation between seasonal variation in climate and upper limb size, volume, or fluid distribution were found in women diagnosed with or at risk of developing BCRL. Lymphedema diagnosis depends on the season and diagnostic measurement tool utilized. 


There was no statistically significant variation in limb size, volume, or fluid distribution in this population across spring, summer, and winter, although there were linked trends in these values. The diagnosis of lymphedema, however, varied between individual participants throughout the year. This has important implications for the implementation/commencement of treatment and management. Further research with a larger population in different climates is required to explore the status of women with respect to BCRL. The use of common clinical diagnostic criteria did not result in consistent diagnostic classification of BCRL for the women involved in this study.

Original languageEnglish
JournalLymphatic Research and Biology
Early online date22 Feb 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 Feb 2023


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