Massage & Bodywork


Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 72 of 100

This column is a companion piece to the feature "Skin Cancer: A Closer Look" in this issue of Massage & Bodywork (page 32). I chose to address the topic of skin of color on its own because as an educator I have been discouraged and frequently frustrated by the dearth of information and images available about skin conditions that affect people of color, and this subject needs a full discussion. I am not the only one who has noticed this void. In recent years, several organizations and resources have come to wrestle with this problem, and links to them can be found at the end of this column. They are not specific to skin cancer, but they do begin to fill the vacuum of knowledge that might help people with dark skin tones receive better care from their physicians. TERMINOLOGY TO HELP To approach the topic of skin cancer and skin of color, we must establish some terminology. Much of the writing about skin issues on non-White skin uses the term skin of color, but what does that mean? Technically, skin of color should encompass every human who doesn't have albinism: We all have pigment in our skin. But some of us have more pigment than others. Melanin is pigment, produced by melanocytes located deep in the epidermis. Melanin absorbs harmful ultraviolet (UV ) rays, preventing damage to deeper tissues. This provides some—but not complete—protection from some types of skin cancer. People with skin of color have more melanin than non-Hispanic White people. Skin of color has been defined by Western researchers to refer to people of African, Asian (including Indian), Native American, Middle Eastern, and Hispanic backgrounds. A close reading of this list reveals some important missing groups: indigenous peoples of Central and South America, for instance, or those from Australia and New Zealand, along with Pacific Islanders and Inuit people. Further, bear in mind that people from the Mediterranean often have darker skin than some of these other groups. As a descriptor, I find that the term skin of color is not useful, but it is the accepted language. Another labeling system for skin color is the Fitzpatrick Skin Tone Scale. This is the work of American dermatologist Thomas B. Fitzpatrick, who created the 70 m a s s a g e & b o d y wo r k m a rc h /a p r i l 2 0 2 3 critical thinking | PATHOLOGY PERSPECTIVES Skin Cancer and Skin of Color By Ruth Werner TAKEAWAY: More information about skin of color can help fill the vacuum of knowledge that exists. And improved awareness may help people with dark skin tones receive better, and earlier, care. ANNA SHVETS/PEXELS.COM

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Massage & Bodywork - MARCH | APRIL 2023