Hairdressers May be Your Cancer BFF

Skin cancer and melanomas identified by hairdressers

(RxWiki News) You may remember the slogan, "Only your hairdresser knows for sure." In a slight twist on that concept, it may be that your stylist not only knows your true color, but is also your best first line of defense against skin cancer.

In a recent survey, hair professionals report examining the face, scalp and neck of their clients to look for abnormal moles. They also indicate an interest in learning more about skin cancer so they can talk with their clients about the disease.

"Ask your hair professional to look for suspicious moles."

Elizabeth E. Bailey, M.D., of Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, and colleagues surveyed 304 hair professionals in the greater Houston area in January 2010.

Of the 203 stylists who completed the questionnaires, here's what researchers learned:

  • 69 percent said they were somewhat or very likely to give clients a pamphlet about skin cancer.
  • 49 percent were interested in learning more about skin cancer.
  • 25 percent said they share general health information with their clients.
  • 37 percent reported looking at about half of their customers' scalps; 29 percent said they examine clients' faces.
  • 58 percent said they recommended at least one client a month see a doctor about an abnormal mole.

So this study suggests that hair professionals are indeed serving as lay health advisors regardng skin cancer detection and prevention, the authors write. These professionals are also interested in becoming more involved in skin cancer education.

The authors conclude that additional research should focus on providing skin cancer training to hair professionals and arm them with communication skills to confidently discuss the topic with their clients.

Melanoma of the scalp and neck accounted for about six percent of all cases of the disease and about 10 percent of melanoma deaths in the United States between 1973 and 2003. Stage 1 melanomas in these areas have a five-year survival rate of 83 percent vs. 92 percent for melanomas found in other sites, the authors report as background.

Findings from this study were published in the October issue of Archives of Dermatology, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Review Date: 
October 17, 2011