According to a late-breaking abstract presented at the 2006 American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery meeting, the use of low-energy non-thermal light-emitting diode (LED) photomodulation in women with early breast cancer undergoing radiation therapy significantly reduced side effects to the skin normally associated with radiation therapy.

Early breast cancer (cancer that has not spread from the breast to distant sites in the body) is often treated with surgical removal of the cancer followed by radiation therapy with or without chemotherapy or hormone therapy.

Radiation therapy to the site of the breast often causes side effects to the skin. In fact, approximately 80% to 90% of these patients will typically experience some degree of dermatitis (inflammation of the skin) induced by radiation. A significant portion of patients may also experience redness, alterations in pigmentation, peeling of the skin, and/or thickening of the skin.

If the side effects become too severe, radiation therapy is delayed to allow the skin to heal; this potentially reduces a patient’s chance for an optimal outcome. Furthermore, commonly used chemotherapy agents referred to as taxanes and the chemotherapy agent Adriamycin® (doxorubicin) tend to make the skin more sensitive to the effects of radiation therapy.

LED is a device that delivers low-energy, non-thermal light to a specific area. The procedure delivers painless pulses of this light at a certain frequency to a specific area. The pulses of light stimulate the production of collagen and interfere with inflammatory pathways that are involved in breakdown of skin. The process takes approximately one minute.

Researchers from Louisiana State University recently conducted a clinical trial to evaluate the potential effects of LED photomodulation in women with breast cancer who were treated with radiation therapy. Patients in this trial had undergone surgery and some had undergone chemotherapy prior to radiation therapy. Nineteen women were treated with LED immediately following radiation therapy, and 28 women had no LED following radiation therapy (control group).

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LED significantly reduced side effects to the skin induced by radiation:

  • Of the patients treated with LED, seven had no skin reactions, 11 had mild reactions, and only one had moderate radiation-induced dermatitis.
  • All patients in the control group experienced some type of skin reaction following radiation therapy; four experienced mild dermatitis, 18 had moderate dermatitis, and six had serious skin reactions.
  • Nineteen patients in the control group required a delay in radiation therapy due to skin reactions, while only two patients who received LED required a delay in radiation therapy.
  • Long-term skin reactions, including skin atrophy, dilated blood vessels, thickening of the skin, alterations in pigmentation, and/or hardening of this skin were significantly reduced in the group treated with LED compared to the control group.

The researchers concluded that the addition of LED following radiation therapy to the breast may significantly reduce the rate and/or severity of skin reactions caused by radiation therapy. This may allow not only for greater cosmetic effects, but also may prevent interruptions of therapy that can reduce the effectiveness of treatment. Further study evaluating LED is warranted.

Reference: DeLand M, et al. Pilot Study of LED Photo modulation to Reduce Inflammation Following Radiation Treatment of Breast Cancer. Proceedings from the 2006 meeting of the American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery. Late-Breaking Abstract. Presented April, 7, 2006.

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