Low Level Laser Therapy and Cancer Treatment

Does Laser Increase Cancer Risk?

Vopr Kurortol Fizioter Lech Fiz Kult. 2009 Nov-Dec;(6):49-52

This is a topic with a lot of controversy. Some think that because light stimulates cell growth, it would automatically stimulate tumor growth.

Low-power lasers and other cold laser sources have never been proven to cause cancer. However, these techniques are looked at with a great deal of caution for fear of their stimulatory effect on existing tumors and cancer cells. This apprehension arises because of reports that the proliferative activity of tumor cells may increase after their exposure to light.

The objective of the present review was to summarize the results of applications of low-power visible and near infrared radiation for the treatment of patients with cancer during the last 20-25 years. This study noted that 2-4 year follow-up observations have not revealed any increase in the frequency of tumor recurrence and metastasis.

Is Melanoma a Contraindication….with Hot Lasers?

BMC Cancer 2009, Nov 20

The above study on lymphedema was interesting because, like many others, shows profound benefits using LLLT for patients suffering from the side effects of cancer or cancer treatment. Yet, it is interesting to see that this present study on skin cancer expressed caution about using laser over melanoma. These researchers found that, in the rats being studied, there was an increase in the melanoma cells post-irradiation. They looked at two groups of lasers, those that produced 150 J/cm2 and a “hotter” laser producing 1500 J/cm2. They found that, for the 1050 J/cm2 dose group, there were significant increases in tumor volume, blood vessels and cell abnormalities.

They concluded that LLLT Irradiation should be avoided over melanomas as the high dose, 1050J/cm2, significantly increased the melanoma tumor growth. This study has two implications. One, clinicians using any type of laser should avoid treating directly over a site proven to have melanoma cells. But, two, anyone using a very high power laser should be even more careful. It may be that a high powered laser could adversely affect the tissues in and around the melanoma, making them less likely to be able to protect themselves from cancer. We will surely need more studies to give us more answers about laser treatment with cancer patients. However, all clinicians, especially those with hot lasers, should exercise caution.

Laser Benefits Cancer Patients

Curr Opin Clin Onc 2010 Feb 24

One of the beautiful aspects of cold or low level laser therapy is the lack of proven side effects. However, many researchers sound caution when it comes to treating cancer. The problem with this caution is that it contradicts a lot of new research showing benefit with cancer patients, especially those suffering form oral mucositis, a condition with painful mouth lesions as a side effect of chemotherapy and radiation.

In this study from a cancer center, they concluded that low-level laser was a promising therapy for prevention and treatment of mucositis for the cancer patients in their study. As we see more studies coming out showing the safety and value of treating cancer patients and damaged brain tissue, it is becoming obvious that we have only scratched the surface of what we can do with low level lasers.

Laser Brain Treatment

Vopr Kurotol Fizioter Lech Fiz Kult 2009 Nov-Dec;(6):3-11

There is a lot of interest about using low level lasers for the treatment of various types of brain dysfunction and damage. In this Russian study, a combination of low level laser and electrical stimulation was applied to the treatment of 576 patients with neurosurgical problems including the loss of brain function, nervous system lesions of traumatic origin, and vascular problems.

Their approach, they claim, allows brain function to be completely restored, creating normal function in the nervous system. Because there are now a number of well controlled studies documenting brain regeneration with low level laser, it is intriguing to see this continuing steady stream of studies from around the world that demonstrate the safety and efficacy of regenerating brain function with low level laser.

Lasers, Especially Cold Lasers, Helpful for Cancer Therapies

Lasers Surg Med. 2009 Apr;41(4):264-70

Oral mucositis is a dose-limiting and painful side effect of radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy in cancer patients. The purpose of the present study was to analyze the effect of different protocols of low level laser therapy (LLLT) on the grade of mucositis and degree of pain in patients under radiotherapy.

Thirty-nine patients were divided into three groups: G1, where the irradiations were done three times a week using low power laser; G2, where combined high and low power lasers were used three time a week; and G3, where patients received low power laser irradiation once a week. All protocols of LLLT were beneficial, except the patients in the group that received the treatment once per week had more pain and the group receiving the higher power treatment suffered from an increased healing time. This is more substantiation that to stimulate healing, regular treatments with cooler lasers are better than hotter lasers, especially with oral mucositis.

Treating Oral Mucositis with LLLT

Photomed Laser Surg. 2010 Oct 22

Oral Mucositis (OM) is a very painful side effect of chemotherapy. Patients who have received high doses of chemotherapy, either alone or in combination with total body radiation, often cite OM as the most debilitating side effect. Prior studies have shown that LLLT can treat OM and provide significant relief and speed healing. However, no study has looked at trying to prevent OM before it begins.

The researchers studied 42 patients who underwent stem cell transplant with radiation and chemotherapy. In the LLLT group, 57.1% of patients had no pain when they received LLLT prior to treatment, whereas in the control group, only 4.8% of patients were free of pain! The results demonstrate that laser can not only heal this serious problem, it can even prevent it!

Will More Cancer Specialist Start Using Laser Therapy?

J Pediatr Hematol Oncol. 2009 Jan;31(1):33-7

Oral mucositis is one of the most frequent complications of chemotherapy for which there is no standard therapy; treatment is mostly conservative. This study was conducted to determine whether low-intensity laser therapy can reduce the duration of chemotherapy-induced Oral mucositis. A placebo-controlled randomized trial was carried out on children and adolescents with cancer receiving chemotherapy or hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation. Patients received intervention for 5 days. The pediatric patients had a diagnosis of leukemia, lymphoma, or solid tumors. The mean age was 8.2 years. In the laser group, the mean of duration of symptoms was about 6 days and in the placebo group was 9 days. This study has shown evidence that laser therapy can decrease the duration of chemotherapy-induced oral mucositis. The researchers recommend that pediatric oncologists use laser therapy as first-line option in children with chemotherapy-induced oral mucositis.