Dropout from exercise trials among cancer survivors-An individual patient data meta-analysis from the POLARIS study.



The number of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) investigating the effects of exercise among cancer survivors has increased in recent years; however, participants dropping out of the trials are rarely described. The objective of the present study was to assess which combinations of participant and exercise program characteristics were associated with dropout from the exercise arms of RCTs among cancer survivors.


Overall, 9.6% of the participants dropped out. Five subgroups were identified in the conditional inference tree based on four significant associations with dropout. Most dropout was observed for participants with BMI >28.4 kg/m2 , performing supervised resistance or unsupervised mixed exercise (19.8% dropout) or had low-medium education and performed aerobic or supervised mixed exercise (13.5%). The lowest dropout was found for participants with BMI >28.4 kg/m2 and high education performing aerobic or supervised mixed exercise (5.1%), and participants with BMI ≤28.4 kg/m2 exercising during (5.2%) or post (9.5%) treatment.


This study used data collected in the Predicting OptimaL cAncer RehabIlitation and Supportive care (POLARIS) study, an international database of RCTs investigating the effects of exercise among cancer survivors. Thirty-four exercise trials, with a total of 2467 patients without metastatic disease randomized to an exercise arm were included. Harmonized studies included a pre and a posttest, and participants were classified as dropouts when missing all assessments at the post-intervention test. Subgroups were identified with a conditional inference tree.


There are several systematic differences between cancer survivors completing and dropping out from exercise trials, possibly affecting the external validity of exercise effects.

More about this publication

Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports
  • Volume 34
  • Issue nr. 2
  • Pages e14575
  • Publication date 01-02-2024

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