Hairstylists could double as cancer screeners

Cut, color, and a skin cancer screening? A new study published Monday finds that hairstylists could be an untapped resource when it comes to spotting melanomas on their clients' scalp and neck.

The study, published in the journal Archives of Dermatology, finds that many hairstylists already check their clients' scalp, neck, and face for signs of skin cancer, with more than half recommending that a client seek a doctor regarding a suspicious mole. While the stylists lack proper health training, the researchers suggest that this could change, paving the way for possible early detection of deadly cancer.

"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," researcher Dr. Elizabeth E. Bailey, of Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard School of Public Health in the US, and colleagues wrote in the report.

In the study, researchers surveyed 203 hairdressers from 17 salons in a single chain in the Houston, Texas, area. Researchers found that 37 percent of the hairstylists said they checked more than 50 percent of their clients' scalps for moles or lesions, with 58 percent recommending at least once that a client see a health professional regarding a mole.

"Future research should focus on creating a program that provides hair professionals expert training and effective health communication tools to become confident and skilled lay skin cancer educators," the researchers wrote.

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