Massage therapists are oftentimes the first health care professionals to notice suspicious moles or lesions on clients’ skin, and to make an appropriate referral.

For just-published research, investigators from the Department of Dermatology at Boston University, in Boston, Massachusetts, conducted an observational retrospective survey of massage therapists at the American Massage Therapy Association’s 2010 Annual National Convention.

“The purpose of this study was to describe the skin cancer education provided to massage therapists and to assess their comfort regarding identification and communication of suspicious lesions,” the investigators noted.

Among the results:

• Sixty percent of respondents reported receiving skin cancer education during their education

• Twenty-five percent of respondents reported receiving skin cancer education after training

• Massage therapists who examine their own skin are more likely to be comfortable with recognizing a suspicious lesion and are more likely to examine their client’s skin

• Greater number of clients treated per year and greater frequency of client skin examinations were predictors of increased comfort level with recognizing a suspicious lesion

• Massage therapists are more comfortable discussing than identifying a potential skin cancer

“Massage therapists encounter skin on a daily basis and have a unique opportunity to recognize potential skin cancers,” said the investigators. “Massage therapists may be able to serve an important role in the early detection of skin cancer.”

“Skin Cancer Education among Massage Therapists: A Survey at the 2010 Meeting of the American Massage Therapy Association” was published Aug. 23 in the Journal of Cancer Education.

Related article:

Skin Cancer Rising at “Alarming” Rates, say Mayo Clinic Researchers