Darker skin susceptible to
Massage therapists are in a unique position to
help educate their black and Hispanic clients about a little-known
but very real risk of life-threatening skin cancer among people
with darker skin pigmentation.
In a recent study published in the July issue
of the Archives of Dermatology, researchers from the University
of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine found that black and
Hispanic patients, while at less risk of melanoma than whites, tend
to present with more advanced stages of the disease and are much
more likely to die from it. Hispanics were nearly twice as likely
as whites to have advanced melanoma when diagnosed; blacks more
than three times as likely.
“We found that there are more late-stage
diagnoses in minorities,” says study author Robert Kirsner,
M.D., Ph.D., in a press release. “Our hypothesis is that this
is due to a lack of screening and a lack of awareness.”
“Ethnic minorities, who are often darker-skinned
individuals, think it’s almost impossible for them to get
skin cancer, especially melanoma,” adds Shasa Hu, M.D., who
co-authored the study.
Many black and Hispanic patients don’t
regularly perform self-screening to check for moles that are asymmetrical
or that change over time, researchers say. Yet when detected early,
melanoma responds well to treatment; the five-year survival rate
is 98 percent. However, when the disease goes undetected and metastasizes,
the survival rate drops to 16 percent, the press release states.
About 60,000 people are diagnosed with melanoma
annually, and nearly 8,000 die of the disease, according to the
American Cancer Society. It is also becoming more common, with incidence
rates rising 2.4 percent each year, and with the highest rates in
California and Florida.
Public-awareness campaigns about the dangers
of melanoma and the importance of self-screening have improved survival
rates among whites diagnosed with melanoma from 68 to 92 percent
over the past 30 years. The study’s authors hope that these
latest findings sound a clarion call to darker-skinned people, to
both take greater precautions to reduce their risk of contracting
melanoma and to be more vigilant about checking their skin and getting
And that’s where massage therapists can
help. If you notice any suspicious moles or skin discoloration on
clients, let them know immediately and suggest they contact their
physician. It could save a life.