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60-Second Health

Hairdressers Can Be Skin Cancer Detectors

Hair care pros often spot possible skin cancers on the scalp. Dermatologists recommend they be trained to do it more and better. Katherine Harmon reports

Humans have mostly abandoned the grooming strategies of our chimp cousins. So there's a good chance your scalp and the back of your head go largely unexamined. But this inattention can leave skin cancers undetected.

Fortunately, there are some people who have a more intimate knowledge of our heads and necks than even we do: barbers and hair stylists.

Many folks see their hairdressers more often than they see their doctors. And a new study finds that hair salon workers are already in the habit of checking their customers for signs of skin cancer.

Researchers found that more than half of hair care professionals surveyed said they had suggested to at least one of their customers that they see a doctor for an abnormal mole. And more than a third said that they checked customers' scalps for suspicious spots. The findings are reported in the Archives of Dermatology. [Elizabeth Bailey et al., "Skin Cancer Knowledge, Attitudes and Behaviors in the Salon"]

Since hair professionals are already checking scalps, the study’s authors recommend the creation of a program to give stylists “expert training and effective health communication tools to become confident and skilled lay skin cancer educators."

—Katherine Harmon

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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