Purpose: Secondary lymphedema is a common irreversible side effect of breast cancer surgery. We investigated if risk of secondary lymphedema in breast cancer survivors was related to changes in serum phospholipid fatty acid composition. Methods: Study subjects were voluntarily recruited into the following three groups: breast cancer survivors who had sentinel lymph node biopsy without lymphedema (SLNB), those who had auxillary lymph node dissection without lymphedema (ALND), and those who had ALND with lymphedema (ALND + LE). Body mass index (BMI), serum lipid profiles, bioimpedance data with single-frequency bioimpedance analysis (SFBIA), and serum phospholipid compositions were analyzed and compared among the groups. Results: BMI, serum total cholesterol (total-C), and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) and SFBIA ratios increased only in the ALND + LE. High polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and high C20:4 to C18:2 n-6 PUFAs (arachidonic acid [AA]/linoleic acid [LA]) was detected in the ALND and ALND + LE groups compared to SLNB. The ALND + LE group showed increased activity indices for delta 6 desaturase (D6D) and D5D and increased ratio of AA to eicosapentaenoic acid (AA/EPA) compared to the ALND and SLNB groups. Correlation and regression analysis indicated that D6D, D5D, and AA/EPA were associated with SFBIA ratios. Conclusion: We demonstrated that breast cancer survivors with lymphedema had elevated total PUFAs, fatty acid desaturase activity indices, and AA/EPA in serum phospholipids. Our findings suggested that desaturation extent of fatty acid composition might be related to the risk of secondary lymphedema in breast cancer survivors.
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