We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to evaluate the effects of acupuncture on malignancy-related, chemotherapy (CT)- or radiation therapy (RT)-induced, surgery-induced, and hormone therapy (HT)-induced pain. Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) examining the effects of acupuncture on cancer-related pain were reached from the EMBASE, PubMed, PsycINFO, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, CINAHL, Airiti library, Taiwan Electrical Periodical Service, Wanfang Data (a Chinese database) and China Knowledge Resource Integrated Database from inception through June 2014. Heterogeneity, moderator analysis, publication bias and risk of bias associated with the included studies were examined. A total of 29 RCTs yielding 36 effect sizes were included. The overall effect of acupuncture on cancer-related pain was -0.45 [95% confidence interval (CI) = -0.63 to -0.26]. The subanalysis indicated that acupuncture relieved malignancy-related and surgery-induced pain [effect size (g) = -0.71, and -0.40; 95% CI = -0.94 to -0.48, and -0.69 to -0.10] but not CT- or RT-induced and HT-induced pain (g = -0.05, and -0.64, 95% CI = -0.33 to 0.24, and -1.55 to 0.27). Acupuncture is effective in relieving cancer-related pain, particularly malignancy-related and surgery-induced pain. Our findings suggest that acupuncture can be adopted as part of a multimodal approach for reducing cancer-related pain.
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