Hairdressers may be first to spot skin cancer

Your hairdresser sees your head close up on a regular basis. Because of that, he or she may also be the first person to spot evidence of skin cancer on your scalp, neck, or face.

In fact, many hairstylists already take notice of suspicious spots on their clients’ skin. And many are interested in training on how to spot such abnormalities, said the Harvard School of Public Health’s Alan Geller in an October 17, 2011 HealthDay article.

Geller, senior lecturer in the Department of Society, Human Development, and Health, was senior author for a study published in the October issue of Archives of Dermatology that questioned 203 hair professionals from a salon chain in the greater Houston area. Geller and his colleagues—lead author Elizabeth Bailey, MPH ‘10, a medical intern at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and others from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Baylor College of Medicine—surveyed the stylists on how much they examine their clients’ skin. They found that, over a one-month period, roughly 37 percent of hairdressers looked at the scalps of more than half of their customers; nearly 29 percent looked at the necks of more than half their clients; and about 15 percent checked the faces of more than half of their customers.

“Hairdressers and barbers can potentially play a key role in detection of early melanoma if they are trained on how to look at the skin for atypical moles and lesions while they are taking care of their customer’s hair,” Geller told HealthDay.

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Department of Society, Human Development, and Health