Massage therapists are on the front lines in the battle against skin cancer, often the first people to notice suspicious lesions on a client’s body and those who refer clients to a dermatologist.

A recent survey of patients undergoing skin cancer screening, conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, shows:

• In 2008, more than 62,000 Americans were diagnosed with the skin cancer melanoma and almost 8,500 died from the disease;

• Women are more likely to seek screening because of a skin lesion, a family history of skin cancer, or concern about sun exposure that are men;

• Men age 50 and older, the group at highest risk for melanoma, may only seek screenings after a previous skin cancer diagnosis;

• Most patients (80.6 percent) had sought screening without having a particular skin lesion that concerned them, although women were more likely than men to have a skin lesion they believed could be skin cancer (24.6 percent vs. 11.9 percent);

• Women were more likely than men to be concerned about previous sun exposure (34.3 percent vs. 23.8 percent);

• Patients younger than 50 years were more likely than those older to seek screening because of a family history of melanoma (30 percent vs. 18.9 percent) or on the recommendation of a friend (21 percent vs. 8.7 percent);

• Men 50 years or older were more likely than other individuals to seek screening because they had previously been diagnosed with skin cancer (64.6 percent vs. 40.8 percent);

• Most patients believed screening had been proven to prevent skin cancer (72.3 percent) or reduce the risk of death from skin cancer (89.9 percent).

The article is running in the journal Archives of Dermatology (2010;146[10]:1097-1102).

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