A Survey of Licensed Massage Therapists’ Perceptions of Skin Cancer Prevention and Detection Activities

  • Lois J. Loescher, PhD, RN University of Arizona
  • Amy L. Howerter, PhD University of Arizona
  • Kelly M. Heslin, MPH University of Arizona
  • Christina M. Azzolina, MPH University of Arizona
  • Myra L. Muramoto, MD, MPH University of Arizona
Keywords: skin cancer prevention, survey of massage therapists, skin cancer education


Background: Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the US. Training massage therapists (MTs) in skin cancer prevention and detection cre-ates opportunity for reducing skin cancer burden. Little is known about MTs’ perceptions of skin cancer prevention and detection, their discussions of these topics with clients, or their referral recom-mendations for suspicious skin lesions.

Purpose: We surveyed MTs’ perceptions of their role in engaging in conversations about skin cancer prevention, viewing the skin for suspicious lesions, and referring clients with such lesions to health care providers.

Setting, Participants, Research Design: We ad-ministered an online survey from 2015–2017 of licensed MTs practicing in the US and at least age 21 years (n = 102); quantitative and qualitative data were analyzed in 2017.

Main Outcome Measures: The main variables assessed were MTs perceptions of (a) appropriate-ness for asking clients about skin cancer history, skin cancer prevention, suspicious lesion referral and follow-up; and (b) comfort with recognizing and discussing suspicious lesions, recommending a client see a doctor for suspicious lesion, and discussing skin cancer prevention.

Results: Quantitative data revealed that most MTs were amenable to discussing skin cancer prevention during appointments; few were en-gaging in these conversations. MTs were more comfortable discussing suspicious lesions and recommending that a client see a doctor than they were sharing knowledge about skin cancer and sun safety. Categories based on qualitative content analysis were: sharing information for the client’s benefit, and concerns about remaining within scope of practice.

Conclusions: MTs have boundaries for skin cancer risk-reduction content to include in a client discussion and remain in their scope of practice. These findings will help support a future educa-tional intervention for MTs to learn about and incorporate skin cancer risk-reduction messages and activities into their practice.

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How to Cite
Loescher, PhD, RN, L. J., Howerter, PhD, A. L., Heslin, MPH, K. M., Azzolina, MPH, C. M., & Muramoto, MD, MPH, M. L. (2018). A Survey of Licensed Massage Therapists’ Perceptions of Skin Cancer Prevention and Detection Activities. International Journal of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork Research Education &Amp; Practice, 11(4), 4–10. https://doi.org/10.3822/ijtmb.v11i4.417