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Support Care Cancer. 2018 Jul;26(7):2113-2123. doi: 10.1007/s00520-018-4208-z. Epub 2018 Apr 18.

Aerobic exercise and cardiopulmonary fitness in childhood cancer survivors treated with a cardiotoxic agent: a meta-analysis.

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Northern Ontario School of Medicine, Laurentian University, Sudbury, ON, Canada.
School of Health and Human Performance, Dalhousie University Halifax, 6230 South Street, Halifax, NS, B3H 4R2, Canada.
School of Health and Human Performance, Dalhousie University Halifax, 6230 South Street, Halifax, NS, B3H 4R2, Canada.



The main purpose of this review was to synthesize evidence from existing childhood cancer survivor studies that report the effect of aerobic exercise on cardiopulmonary fitness (a marker of cardiovascular health), in survivors that were currently receiving or had been treated with a cardiotoxic agent.


Studies were identified for this review by searching both electronic databases of peer-reviewed articles, as well as various sources of gray literature. Risk of bias was qualitatively assessed in these studies using the domains outlined in the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions. Data was analyzed quantitatively using random-effects meta-analyses and subgroup analyses in RevMan Software.


Meta-analysis of pooled evidence from the nine included studies suggests that aerobic exercise has a statistically and clinically significant positive effect on cardiopulmonary fitness (effect estimate = 6.92%, p value = 0.02). Findings from subgroup analyses of clinical characteristics and exercise parameters were not significant.


The findings from this review, although not directly demonstrating a cardioprotective effect, are a preliminary step towards establishing the putative cardioprotective effect of aerobic exercise against the direct cardiotoxic impact of cancer treatments. The significant positive effect estimate in favor of aerobic exercise is a small but important advancement towards the standardization of aerobic exercise in childhood cancer survivors. Further studies are necessary.


Aerobic exercise; Cardiorespiratory fitness; Cardiotoxicity; Childhood cancer; Meta-analysis

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