Over the years I’ve had patients referred because a hairdresser spotted a suspicious looking skin lesion on their scalp or neck. Most turn out to be benign, but a few have turned out to be suspicious enough to require excision or biopsying. Last summer had a woman come in referred by her hairdresser and she had the early beginnings of alopecia. She had a bald spot about the size of a quarter on the crown of her scalp that had gone unnoticed.
I learned last week that Illinois is the only state that mandates domestic abuse recognition training for hairdressers. In this same vein of having hairdressers detect a health situation, there are three University hospitals that are teaching hairdressers to identify melanomas, an increasingly common skin cancer that their clients often miss on their scalps and necks.
Researchers at the University of Colorado and the University of Southern California created an educational video specifically to teach hairdressers how to identify melanomas while they have a rare view of their clients’ heads. After receiving training, over 70 percent of hairdressers were able to successfully identify atypical, or suspicious looking moles that needed attention.
The hairdressers were taught the ‘ABCDEs” of melanomas: Asymmetry, (irregular) Borders, Color, Diameter, and Evolution. Also the stylists were twice as confident about their abilities after training.
Hopefully, Mississippi legislators will catch wind of this interesting way to supplement melanoma detection, and require training to detect this increasingly common cancer. It would be an asset, another pair of eyes that would help supplement melanoma detection in our communities. Maybe even save a life or two or few. Then again, the way things are going, it may turn out these same lawmakers will figure out how to tax the unsuspecting stylists, perhaps making a racket out of something good and helpful. But I’d like to be optimistic that it would be a good thing.
In a survey of 203 Houston salons, 58 percent of respondents told researchers from Harvard School of Public Health that they had urged a client at least once to get a mole checked out by a medical professional. Which speaks to the effect that hairdressers have in helping people identify skin lesions that have gone unnoticed.
Once a month it’s a good idea, especially here in the Deep South where the sun shines brightly and the skies are not cloudy all day, to step out of the shower and take a good look at your birthday suit to see if something has changed or if something is there that wasn’t there last month. And if you can't quite see the back of your neck or ears, then your attentive hairdresser (or barber) might be able to help.