Photobiomodulation and Cancer: What Is the Truth?

Michael R. Hamblin, Scott T. Nelson, Justin R. Strahan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

81 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Photobiomodulation (PBM) therapy is a rapidly growing approach to stimulate healing, reduce pain, increase athletic performance, and improve general wellness.

OBJECTIVE: Applying PBM therapy over the site of a tumor has been considered to be a contraindication. However, since another growing use of PBM therapy is to mitigate the side effects of cancer therapy, this short review seeks to critically examine the evidence of whether PBM therapy is beneficial or harmful in cancer patients.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: PubMed and Google Scholar were searched.

RESULTS: Although there are a few articles suggesting that PBM therapy can be detrimental in animal models of tumors, there are also many articles that suggest the opposite and that light can directly damage the tumor, can potentiate other cancer therapies, and can stimulate the host immune system. Moreover, there are two clinical trials showing increased survival in cancer patients who received PBM therapy.

CONCLUSIONS: PBM therapy may have benefits in cancer patients and should be further investigated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)241-245
Number of pages5
JournalPhotomedicine and Laser Surgery
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • antitumor immune response
  • cancer
  • cancer therapy side effects
  • contraindication
  • low-level laser therapy
  • photobiomodulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Radiology, Nuclear Medicine and Imaging


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