Skin Cancer

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 some 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

The number of newly diagnosed cases of skin cancer is increasing each year.  If you work with young clients, bring to attention any unusual spots on their skin. Young people may not believe they are susceptible to skin cancer.  If you work with older clients, bring to attention unusual spots in body areas that they may have difficulty seeing, such as the back, posterior legs and head.

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 by a dermatologist.


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.

2. 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.