A massage therapist’s first inclination is to reach out and touch, but until recently, students in the field were instructed to keep their hands off people with cancer.

The now-debunked belief that massage could aggravate the disease has given way to prevailing wisdom touting the opposite: The American Cancer Society supports the notion that massage reduces stress and promotes well-being in the life of a person with cancer.

“Massage therapy these days is so much more than considered a luxury,” said Angelo Pizzonia, department chair for massage at Mildred Elley in Pittsfield.

Berkshire Eagle, Pittsfield, Massachusetts, May 29, 2011