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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2012, Article ID 167651, 6 pages
Review Article

“We're All in the Same Boat”: A Review of the Benefits of Dragon Boat Racing for Women Living with Breast Cancer

Department of Physical Therapy, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia, 212-2177 Wesbrook Mall, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6T 1Z3

Received 18 November 2011; Revised 5 May 2012; Accepted 6 May 2012

Academic Editor: Tieraona Low Dog

Copyright © 2012 Susan R. Harris. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


This narrative review summarizes findings from quantitative and qualitative research literature that has been published over the past 15 years since an initial, community-based pilot study first challenged the long-held medical belief that vigorous, upper-body exercise would lead to lymphedema in women who were at risk due to treatments for breast cancer. Dragon boat racing originated in China more than 2000 years ago and has become a popular recreational and competitive support around the world. From the advent of the world's first breast cancer survivor dragon boat team, Abreast in a Boat launched in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1996, there are now more than 140 breast cancer survivor dragon boat teams paddling and competing in 12 different countries. The wealth of quantitative and qualitative research that has ensued since that pilot study further supports the initial hypothesis that resistance exercise, for example, dragon boat paddling, is not only safe for women recovering from conventional breast cancer therapies but also shows that dragon boating has been embraced as a complementary exercise therapy by the cancer survivors participating in this magical sport.