More Than a Color and Cut: Hairdressers Diagnosing Skin Cancer

A study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that many hairdressers may be interested in becoming trained to detect skin cancers of the scalp, face, and neck.

“Hairdressers are uniquely positioned to be part of screening teams to find skin cancers early. People are more loyal to them than most other professions,” senior author Suephy Chen, MD, MS, of Emory University in Atlanta, told Reuters.

The researchers surveyed stylists at 15 salons within a 30-mile radius of Emory University in the fall of 2017. Respondents were asked whether they ever checked clients for skin lesions, had a client who asked them to check for skin lesions, or had referred a client to a doctor for an abnormal mole. The survey also asked hairdressers for reasons why they might not check for skin lesions, as well as whether stylists should be trained in skin cancer detection.

A total of 229 hairdressers (82% women; 86% white) from 12 salons returned questionnaires; 97% of respondents estimated that more than half of their customers were white.

Hairdressers are eager to contribute to skin cancer detection

Most respondents (93%) said they wanted to learn more about skin cancer detection, and 73% believed stylists should receive skin cancer detection training; however, just 40% said it should be a requirement for certification as a hair professional.

Less than one-quarter of stylists had received a request from a customer to check for skin lesions, but more than half had referred a customer to a doctor to check an abnormal mole.

Nearly half (~40%) said they rarely or never checked for skin lesions. The top reasons for not checking included lack of training, lack of confidence to recognize lesions, uncertainty about the appropriate steps to take, and discomfort in bringing up skin cancer with their customers.

Sources: Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology & Reuters