Your hair professional really can save your life—and we’re not talking about making you look younger or being able to squeeze you in for that last minute emergency ‘do.
He or she can spot a potential and very dangerous health risk: Melanoma.
Why? Because when they cut your hair every 4–6 weeks or so, they see the top of your scalp and the back of your neck, both of which are not only hard for you to see, but are also hidden by your hair. They know your scalp better than you do, and they are the perfect ones to notice—and alert you to—any new spots or changes to existing spots.
And early detection saves lives.
Melanoma is small but mighty, and not in a good way. Although it only accounts for about 1 percent of all skin cancers, it’s the one that causes a large majority of cancer deaths.
The American Cancer Society has released these statistics for 2018:
- About 91,270 new melanomas will be diagnosed (about 55,150 in men and 36,120 in women)
- About 9,320 people are expected to die of melanoma (about 5,990 men and 3,330 women)
A group from the University of Southern California and the University of Colorado, Denver published a report in the February 2018 JAMA Dermatology that concluded that hairdressers and barbers are the perfect people to detect melanoma on the scalp and the back of the neck. They created an educational video about the dangers of, and how to spot, melanoma that was shown to 100 licensed California hairdressers in the Los Angeles area. Participants reported that after watching the video their knowledge about melanoma and its risks increased twofold, plus they felt much more confident about being able to spot lesions on clients and suggest that they get the lesions checked out.
Dr. Neda Black, Pasadena dermatologist and first author of the research, told NPR that she had three patients last year with melanoma who had come to see her after their hairdresser found evidence of the disease. “Hairdressers make daily observations of the scalp and neck, and can act as educators,” she said, “I saw this as an excellent educational opportunity to promote public health.”
The research group says the next steps are to get the video out to as many hair professionals as possible, then make it part of a continuing education effort. They also want to explore the possibility of applying the video education approach to licensees in other professions.
When searching for licensed hair professionals in California, don’t forget to check his or her license status with the Board of Barbering and Cosmetology. To verify a dermatologist’s license, check with the Medical Board of California.
BONUS! Watch the training video here!