Laser therapy uses commonly produced gases to generate high-intensity light for treating cancer, and other illnesses, by shrinking or even destroying tumours.

If the early indicators of success in this treatment are carried through then this area of research could become a highly beneficial application of laser gas technology in years to come. At the current stage laser therapies are most commonly used to treat superficial cancers (cancers on the surface of the body or the lining of internal organs) though in time further uses may become apparent.

Experts in the field are delighted with the developing applications of carbon dioxide and argon applications, $quot;besides treating skin cancer, we've also seen more than 600 patients with tumours in the mouth and neck,' says Stephen Bown, professor of Laser Medicine and Surgery at University College Hospital, London. 'It works best when the cancer isn't too far advanced.'

As it stands considerable medical research shows both carbon dioxide and argon lasers are proving successful when used in this context. In application, either of these gases can be used with endoscopes, and carbon dioxide in particular has proven effective in shrinking or destroying tumours. Argon lasers pass only through superficial layers of tissue such as skin, and so are mostly used in treatments to activate chemicals in the cancer cells.

Furthermore, as both types of laser can cut the skin's surface without going into deeper layers they can be used to remove superficial cancers, such as skin cancer, without invasive surgery.

However, laser therapy currently has several limitations. Surgeons must have specialized training before they can do laser therapy, and strict safety precautions must be followed. Also, laser therapy is expensive and requires bulky equipment but this may become less of a factor as technology develops.

In clinical trials (research studies), doctors are also using carbon dioxide lasers to treat cancers of the brain and prostate as well as an alternative to heart bypass surgery.