Healthy living

Hairdressers could be trained to look for skin cancer

Hairdressers could be trained to look for skin cancer 100,000 diagnosed with the disease in the UK annually

Hairdressers could be trained to look out for deadly skin cancer, health experts have said.

Each year, an estimated 100,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with the disease. Of these, some 10,000 people are diagnosed with melanoma, the most deadly type of skin cancer.

But hairdressers could spot the first signs of melanoma on the neck and scalp, US doctors have suggested, where it often goes undetected.

Cheap holidays abroad and using sun beds are thought to have contributed to the steep rise in melanoma cases in recent years, which now causes the deaths of more women in their twenties than any other cancer.

People who have blue or green eyes and fair skin which freckles easily have a higher risk of developing skin cancer. Other risk factors include having an outdoor occupation, a family history of skin cancer and a history of severe sunburn.

Previous research by Harvard School of Public Health found that 58 per cent of hairdressers had advised one of their clients to have a mole checked out by a doctor. But fewer than one in three had received any training about skin cancer.

Writing in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, the doctors said: "If research suggests hairdressers can be trained and are willing to make appropriate referrals then implementing these efforts will likely reduce the increasing disease burden of head and neck melanomas."

In 2010, the UK Melanoma Taskforce and British Association of Dermatologists produced a guide for hairdressers, masseurs and other well-being professionals to help them spot the signs of skin cancer.

The guide emphasised that hairdressers would not make a diagnosis of skin cancer, but would instead encourage their clients to seek medical advice.

The taskforce also pointed to research by Nottingham City Hospital NHS Trust which showed that 80 per cent of hairdressers and 95 per cent of beauty therapists would like to know more about how to recognise the signs of skin cancer.

This article was published on Tue 20 March 2012

Image © marilyn barbone -

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