This treatment modality is thought to promote wellness and optimize overall health. Light therapy should be used with, not in place of, standard cancer therapy.
What does light therapy involve?
Light has been used as medicine for centuries by several parts of the world. In the 1980s, a group of physicians in the U.S. realized that people deprived of sunlight sometimes developed symptoms such as depression, lethargy, inability to concentrate and difficulty sleeping. They began to treat patients with light therapy using light boxes to provide bright light for patients suffering from a variety of illnesses. There are several types of light therapy:
- UV light therapy - uses different wavelengths of UV light (UV-A, -B, or -C) to treat autoimmune diseases.
- Colored light therapy - blue, red and violet lights are used to treat sleep disorders, shoulder pain, diabetes, impotence and allergies.
- Photodynamic therapy - combines the use of colored lights with injections of dye into suspected tumors to treat cancer.
How is light therapy thought to promote wellness and optimize overall health?
Researchers have hypothesized that people deprived of light have a disruption of their circadian rhythms, the internal 24-hour "dark-light cycle clock." Light is thought to influence health because it can affect physiologic functions of the body, such as timing of hormone production, sleep and body temperature. Exposure to sunlight can contribute to a consistent circadian rhythm and combat mild depression, leading to increased wellness and optimized health.
What has been proven about the benefit of light therapy?
Light has proven use in medicine as a treatment for seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression also known as "winter depression" resulting from a lack of sunlight. Light is also used to treat psoriasis, newborn jaundice and vitamin D deficiency. The use of light therapy to treat cancer is still unproven.
What is the potential risk or harm of light therapy?
Light therapy is not recommended for patients with eye and skin sensitivity to sunlight. Patients currently taking medications should check with their physicians or pharmacists before beginning light therapy because a wide variety of drugs can increase sensitivity to sunlight. Also, overexposure to UV light contributes to premature aging of the skin and can increase one’s risk of skin cancer.
How much does light therapy cost?
Most people can take the treatments at home if they purchase the proper equipment, although it is possible to receive therapy in an office or clinic. Costs will vary with the practitioner.
For additional information:
College of Syntonic Optometry
Web site: http://www.syntonicphototherapy.com/
Society for Light Treatment and Biological Rhythms
174 Cook Street
San Francisco, CA 94159
Fax: (415) 751-2758
Web site: www.sltbr.org
Note: Information about therapies is intended to help you make informed choices, not to endorse any particular therapy. The information is courtesy of "Integrating Complementary and Alternative Therapies for Cancer Patients," a handbook written as an independent study project by Heather Morein. For more information, see the full text of the handbook (PDF), including all references and appendices.