May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month

When poet Walt Whitman wrote that you should always keep your face to the sun and the shadows will then fall behind you, I assume he meant with a broad-brimmed hat and covered in sunscreen.

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month. As a massage therapist, you’re in a unique position. You often see your clients and can keep an eye out for signs of skin cancer. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2017, 87,110 new melanomas will be diagnosed (about 52,170 in men and 34,940 in women), and the rates of melanoma have been rising for the last 30 years.

Pop quiz: Can you name the A, B, C, D, E warning signs of melanoma? The warning signs are asymmetry, border, color, diameter, and evolving. The graphic for this blog post will show you the warning signs of melanoma in more detail.

A mole that changes in size, shape, or color is a dangerous mole and needs evaluation by a physician. Be clear and simply raise the subject with your clients to make them aware; you are not making any type of diagnosis. It’s vital to practice within your scope.

 Here are some tips from The Skin Cancer Foundation about how to prevent skin cancer.

  • Always use sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher.
  • Avoid tanning and especially UV tanning booths.
  • Seek shade, particularly between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. when the sun is the strongest.
  • Cover up with a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
  • Examine your skin from head to toe every month for signs of a changing mole or a suspicious-looking new one.

Additional Resources

Massage & Bodywork magazine: “On the Lookout,” http://abmp.us/2qA9maf

Massagetherapy.com: “Skin Cancer: Practitioners as Lookouts,” http://abmp.us/2pUrPj5

ABMP Certified member ebook: Cancer and the Human Connection: The Value of Oncology Massage, http://abmp.us/2eUxBYk

ABMP member-only webinar: Cancer Treatment and Massage Therapy, http://abmp.us/2qA6vOw

ASCP Skin Deep magazine: “Minding Melanoma,” http://bit.ly/2pCFSos

Infographic from the American Academy of Dermatology: http://bit.ly/2pCzoGf

—Tara Doyle is ABMP’s social media and marketing coordinator

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