A regular trip to your fab hairdresser could save your life!  According to a recently published study in the Archives of Dermatology, hair professionals play a significant role in the early detection of skin cancer. Hair dressers have a unique view of your head, neck and scalp where 6% of melanoma are found. Of that 6%, 10% of deaths in the U.S. occur from those types of melanomas (from 1973-2003). In the study many hair professionals say they do examine their clients head, neck and scalp. The study was a survey completed by 203 hair dressers from a chain of 17 salons in the greater Houston, TX area. The study was conducted to “determine the factors related to the observation of suspicious lesions on the scalp, neck and face.”

Melanoma of the head and neck is particularly lethal. For early-stage melanoma of the head or neck, the five-year survival rate is about 83 percent, compared with just over 92 percent for early-stage melanoma found on other areas of the body, the researchers said.

What the study found: 

  • 49% were very or extremely interested in participating in a skin cancer education program.
  • 37% looked at 50% or more of their clients scalps.
  • 28% or more looked at necks.
  • 15% or more looked at their clients faces for suspicious lesions.
They study concluded that hair dressers are looking or do notice suspicious lesions. The results prove that hair dressers would be receptive to skin cancer education and that further investigation into the role of hair professionals in skin cancer prevention and detection campaigns is needed.

“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,” said Alan C. Geller, a senior lecturer in Society, Human Development and Health at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston

Dr. Shasa Hu, an assistant professor in the department of dermatology and cutaneous surgery at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, agreed that hairdressers and barbers can play a significant role in detecting skin cancer early.

“There is a need for public education on skin cancer,” Hu said. “This is a great way to expand education about skin cancer.”

“We don’t want hairdressers diagnosing skin cancer; we want hairdressers to pay attention to their customer’s scalp and behind the ears and neck, basically areas that customers cannot access easily, and point out any suspicious lesions so that customers can go to a physician,” Hu said.


Archives of Dermatology

USA Today