Can Laser Hair Removal Treatment Cause Cancer?

Rest assured, laser hair removal treatment does not cause any form of cancer. The type of laser used in the hair removal procedure utilizes non-ionizing radiation. Ionization is a process by which electrons are stripped from atoms and molecules, producing molecular changes that can lead to significant genetic damage in biological tissue. Less energetic forms of electromagnetic radiation, such as microwave radiation, the laser used in hair reduction procedure lack the ability to ionize atoms and molecules and are classified as "non ionizing" radiation. The non-ionizing radiation can produce very intense heat in a very local area but does not break DNA bonds and not cause cell mutation. In fact, non-ionizing radiation surrounds us every day. It includes the spectrum of ultraviolet (UV), visible light, infrared (IR), microwave (MW), radio frequency (RF), and extremely low frequency (ELF).

Can Laser Hair Reduction Treatment Cause Cancer

However, This past May in 2013 at the American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery's annual meeting, Dr. Gary S. Chuang, dermatologic surgeon at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, reported the preliminary results of a study he conducted that laser plumes emitted during the laser hair removal procedure contain "a cocktail of volatile organic compounds," at least 13 of which are known to be hazardous to human health.

The findings further highlight the potential for harm that have already been demonstrated in association with laser procedures in the absence of safeguards such as adequate ventilation, smoke evacuators, and adequate personal protection.

Dr. Chuang and his colleagues at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard School of Public Health, and Boston University subjected donor hair samples to a single pulse from a diode or Alexandrite laser, captured the plumes produced, and examined them with gas chromatography. They detected the presence of approximately 300 distinct chemical compounds, 40 of which occurred in higher concentrations and 13 of which have been shown to be harmful in human and animal studies.

The compounds included


  • Benzene, toluene, and ethylbenzene (commonly found in car exhaust, cigarette smoke, glue, paint, wax and detergents, and linked to leukemia and bone marrow abnormalities.
  • 2-Methylpyridine, which can cause headache and nausea.
  • Diethyl phthalate, used in cosmetics and fragrances, has been shown to cause birth defects in pregnant rats.
  • Trimethyl disulfide, which is primarily responsible for the foul odor from singed hair.
  • Various soap and perfume components of unknown toxicity.

The researchers also collected dust samples over time to look for the concentration of particles smaller than 1 micron with and without a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) equipped smoke evacuator. Normal street-level concentrations of ultrafine particles are about 4,000/cm3 per cubic centimeter, Dr. Chuang noted. When the investigators took the dust counter into the laser center waiting room, the level jumped to about 16,000/cc. During a laser procedure, the levels rose to nearly 450,000/cc. The levels slowly declined over the next 20 minutes, but still remained about fourfold higher than normal concentrations, he said.

"The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health recommends that with any surgical procedure that produces a plume, you want a capture velocity of about 100-150 ft/minute, and hopefully, (the evacuator) will have a HEPA filter or ultralow penetrance filter that can remove about 99.97% of airborne particulates up to 0.3 microns or greater," he said.

Additionally, the vacuum must be no farther than 2 inches from the source, because the suction velocity decreases at greater distances. All personnel in the treatment room should wear surgical masks with a NIOSH rating of N95 or greater, he recommended. "With chemicals, most masks are useless, so hopefully you will get an evacuator that has a chemical cartridge impregnated with charcoal, and that's able to take out the majority of the chemicals," Dr Chuang said.

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