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Hairdressers are ready to help clients detect skin cancers


(Health Reuters) – Most stylists at salons and hairdressers may be interested in training to detect skin cancers on the scalp, face and neck, researchers say.

Because hairdressers see a client's head and skin closely and regularly, they are able to look for unusual spots or changes that could be melanoma, the study's authors write in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

"Hairdressers are uniquely positioned to be part of a screening team to find skin cancers early. People are more loyal to them than most other professions," said Dr. Suephy Chen of Emory University in Atlanta, senior author of the study.

"Previous studies have shown that hairdressers are ready and eager to do this," she told Reuters Health in an email. "They want to be taught by dermatologists."

Chen and colleagues surveyed stylists at 15 salons on a 30-mile radius from Emory in fall 2017 and received 229 completed surveys from 12 salons. Questions included whether the hair professionals had ever checked clients for skin lesions, had a client who asked them to check for skin lesions, or whether they referred a client to a doctor for an abnormal blemish.

The survey also asked hairdressers reasons why they might not check for skin lesions, and whether stylists should be trained in skin cancer detection and the best way to offer such training. Of the respondents, 82 per cent were women, 86 per cent were white and 97 per cent estimated that more than half of their clients were white.

The research team found that 93 per cent of hairdressers wanted to learn more about skin cancer detection and 73 per cent believed that stylists should get skin cancer detection, but only 40 per cent thought it needed a certificate hair professional.

Less than one quarter of stylists received a request from a client to check for skin lesions, yet more than half reported a client to a doctor to check for abnormal skin. About 40 per cent said they rarely or never checked skin lesions.

Overall, hairdressers said the main reasons why they do not control injuries are: lack of training; they do not have the confidence to admit injuries; they are not sure of the proper steps to take; and they do not feel comfortable bringing skin cancer with their clients. Hairdressers who discussed skin cancer with clients were twice as likely as those who did not agree with detection training.

"Several patients came to me and said their hairdresser or hairdresser indicated a pier or a scoundrel, so they wanted an appointment, and at least half a dozen were diagnosed with melanoma from the scalp of that experience," said Dr. Neda Black of the Complete Dermatological Center in Pasadena, California, who was not involved in the study.

Although scalp melanoma is less common than melanoma elsewhere in the body, it is often more severe and fatal because patients do not notice dark spots or abnormalities on their heads, she said. Those who are active outdoors should check them out, especially since sun protection products are usually not marketed or used on the scalp.

"My first patient who had this was a 30-year-old man who just got married," Black said in a telephone interview. "We could cure him, but he would have died if his hairdresser had not caught him."

The Skin Cancer Foundation recently launched an educational program called "Heads Up!" this promotes salon-tailored training sessions for skin cancer surveillance. Groups like have also started training beauty professionals on various types of cancer, including massage professionals and nail salon beauticians.

"Customers shouldn't be shy about asking their hair to check for anything abnormal," Black noted. "About 99-hundreds of hairdressers feel honored and ready to look."

SOURCE: Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, online July 17, 2019.

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