Can red light therapy cause cancer cells to grow? – What science says

Can red light therapy cause cancer cells to grow

Can red light therapy cause cancer cells to grow?

Red light therapy (RLT) has gained significant popularity for its myriad health benefits, ranging from skin rejuvenation to pain relief and wound healing. However, concerns have emerged regarding its potential link to cancer growth. In this blog, we will explore the scientific evidence to determine whether these concerns are warranted.

Understanding Red Light Therapy

Red light therapy, also known as photobiomodulation, involves exposing the body to low-level wavelengths of red or near-infrared light. This light penetrates the skin and interacts with cells, stimulating cellular function and promoting various health benefits. The wavelengths typically used in RLT range from 600 to 1000 nanometers, and the light can penetrate to a depth of about 5 millimeters​ (Cancer Center for Healing)​​ (RLT Home)​.

The Science Behind Red Light Therapy

Red light therapy works by stimulating the mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell, to produce more energy. This increased energy production can accelerate healing, reduce inflammation, and promote cellular repair. The process, known as photobiomodulation, triggers several beneficial biological processes, including increased blood circulation, collagen production, and tissue repair​ (RLT Home)​.

Addressing the Cancer Concerns

One of the primary concerns about red light therapy is whether it can stimulate cancer cell growth. To address this concern, we must examine the scientific evidence available.

  1. Cancer Cell Growth and RLTStudies investigating the effects of red light therapy on cancer cells have yielded mixed results. Some in vitro studies suggest that red light therapy can inhibit the growth of cancer cells. For example, research published in the journal Photobiomodulation, Photomedicine, and Laser Surgery found that red light therapy could inhibit cancer cell growth in a controlled laboratory setting​ (Cancer Center for Healing)​.
  2. Potential MechanismsThe concern arises from the fact that RLT stimulates cellular activity, including the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). While ROS are essential for normal cellular functions, excessive amounts can damage DNA and potentially lead to cancer mutations. However, the levels of ROS produced during typical red light therapy sessions are generally considered safe and do not reach the levels that would cause significant DNA damage​ (Arsenal Health + Fitness)​.
  3. Clinical Evidence and SafetyClinical studies involving cancer patients have generally shown that red light therapy is safe when used appropriately. A study published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association found that red light therapy improved the quality of life in breast cancer survivors by reducing fatigue and depression without causing any adverse effects related to cancer progression​ (Cancer Center for Healing)​.
  4. Expert OpinionsLeading experts in the field, including those at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), have indicated that while more research is needed, there is currently no conclusive evidence that red light therapy increases the risk of cancer. The NCI notes that some studies have shown potential benefits, while others have not demonstrated significant effects, emphasizing the need for further investigation​ (Cancer Center for Healing)​​ (RLT Home)​.

Red Light Therapy in Cancer Treatment and Prevention

Interestingly, red light therapy is also being explored as a potential adjunct treatment for cancer. Some research suggests that RLT may help reduce cancer-related side effects, such as inflammation and pain, and enhance the effectiveness of conventional treatments like chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Additionally, there is growing interest in using RLT for cancer prevention by boosting immune function and promoting overall cellular health​ (RLT Home)​​ (Arsenal Health + Fitness)​.

What to know

The current body of scientific evidence suggests that red light therapy is generally safe and does not promote cancer cell growth. While there are some theoretical concerns about the potential for RLT to stimulate cancer cell growth due to increased cellular activity, these concerns are not supported by robust clinical data. On the contrary, red light therapy has shown promise in improving the quality of life for cancer patients and may even play a role in cancer treatment and prevention.

As with any medical treatment, it is essential to use red light therapy under the guidance of a qualified healthcare professional, especially for individuals with a history of cancer or those at risk. Red light therapy should be considered as part of a comprehensive approach to health and wellness, rather than a standalone solution.

In summary, red light therapy offers numerous benefits and is generally considered safe when used appropriately. The myth that it causes cancer cell growth is not supported by current scientific evidence, making RLT a valuable tool in promoting overall health and well-being.


By understanding the science and staying informed, we can confidently harness the benefits of red light therapy while addressing any concerns with evidence-based knowledge.

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