Hair Stylists Help Detect Skin Cancer

Oct 18, 2011 1:00pm

You could be thanking your hair stylist for a heck of a lot more than a stylish new ‘do. A new study published in the Archives of Dermatology found that hair professionals often examine their clients’ scalp, neck and face in search of hard-to-see moles and lesions that could be signs of cancer, and they may be able to play an integral part in skin cancer screenings.

“Hair professionals are currently acting as lay health advisers for skin cancer detection and prevention and are willing to become more involved in skin cancer education in the salon,” Alan Geller of the Harvard School of Public Health, wrote in the report.

As reported by MedPage Today, study authors examined surveys filled out by 203 hair stylists in the Houston area. They found that about 37 percent of the stylists said they have looked at more than half their customers’ scalp for possible skin problems. Nearly 60 percent said they had recommended a client visit a skin doctor on at least one occasion.

Stylists have a unique perspective of others’ scalps and necks, Geller noted, and it is this viewpoint which could contribute to the prevention of skin cancer and melanoma, which killed more than 8,000 people in the U.S. in 2007.

While few of the hairdressers who filled out the survey had an education in skin cancer screening, more than half said they were very willing to participate in a skin cancer education program.

“This study provides evidence that hair professionals are currently acting as lay health advisors for skin cancer detection and prevention and are willing to become more involved in skin cancer education in the salon,” authors wrote. “Future research should focus on creating a program that provides hair professionals with expert training and effective health communication tools to become confident and skilled lay skin cancer educators.”

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