Skin Cancer

The number of newly diagnosed cases of skin cancer is increasing each year. WHY? There could be a number of reasons, such as…

  • an increase in detection (more people are getting skin checks),
  • increase in sun exposure (more people are getting outside or using tanning beds more often),
  • increase in risk (more people aren’t using sunscreen).

I am a dermatology physician assistant.  I see skin moles, skin tags and A LOT of skin cancer. I am also a massage therapist, and I know how difficult it is to persuade a client to get a skin check.  You will have more influence on your client when armed with a little knowledge.  Let’s start with four SKIN CANCER FACTS:

1. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime. 1

2. There are many types of skin cancer. The two most common (and most treatable) are basal cell carcinomas (BCC) and squamous cell carcinomas (SCC). The least common skin cancer is melanoma. However, it is lethal if not detected early.

3. In the United States, an estimated 3,010 deaths will occur from BCC and SCC skin cancers, and over 9000 deaths from melanoma. 2

4) Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young adults 25-29 years old, and the second most common form of cancer for young people 15-29 years old. 3


Number one: Bring to attention any unusual spots on your client’s skin.  Especially areas that they may have difficulty seeing, such as the back, posterior legs and head. With the client’s permission, use his/her cell phone and photograph the unusual spot.

Number two: Encourage your client to see a dermatologist. Hand him/her a list of local dermatologists. [Go get a skin check – then you have the experience to relay to your client.]

Because massage therapists may represent the first line of defense against skin cancer, learn the facts about skin cancer, and encourage your client to get any unusual skin lesions evaluated – you may save a life.


1. Robinson, JK. Sun exposure, sun protection, and vitamin D. JAMA 2005; 294:1541-43.

2. American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures 2012. Accessed January 17, 2012.

3. Bleyer A, O’Leary M, Barr R, Ries LAG (eds): Cancer epidemiology in older adolescents and young adults 15 to 29 years of age, including SEER incidence and survival: 1975-2000. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute; 2006.