Are Hairdressers the New Derms?

Photo: ThinkstockPhoto: ThinkstockBy Amber Kallor

As if the scalp massage wasn't reason enough to go to the salon, researchers at Harvard's School of Public Health say that your hairstylist could potentially spot things other than split ends-like skin cancer. Since he/she gets a bird's eye view of your scalp, face, and neck (areas that are frequently exposed to UV rays and where more than 80 percent of the most common types of skin cancers occur, as reported by NPR.org) they could point out suspicious-looking moles or lesions that you may not even know are there or that your doctor might miss during a routine exam.

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Alan Geller, a senior lecturer at Harvard and co-author of the study, told NPR that most of the dermatologists he spoke with had melanoma cases referred to them by a hair professional and 37 percent of the 203 Houston-based hairdressers surveyed in the study checked their clients' scalps for anything abnormal without any formal training.

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Geller and his team are now educating Massachusetts-based stylists with the help of the Melanoma Foundation of New England on how to correctly identify the signs of skin cancer. And although I often prefer silence to salon small talk while I'm getting a trim, I hope that this becomes a nationwide initiative so that my hairdresser knows when it's imperative to speak up.

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Do you think hairdressers should be trained on skin cancer as well as styling?

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