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10/19/2011

Skin Cancer, Your Hairdresser and You

Public health experts are arguing to enlist an unlikely set of professionals in the fight against and early detection of skin cancer. Hairdressers. That’s right: your stylist just might save your life.

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As NPR’s Booster Shots blog put it–who spends more time looking at the back of your head, neck and face on a monthly or bi-monthly basis than your hair stylist? Teaching beauty professionals to look for changes in one’s scalp, neck or face could be an easy way to integrate early detection into routine beauty regimens. Plus these professionals have good rapport (in most cases) with their clients making it easier to say “Hey, have you noticed this funky mole on your neck?”

These kinds of approaches to public health prevention show real outside the box thinking that is essential if we are to reduce the skyrocketing rates of deadly melanomas in this country.

So will beauty schools have to add a public health course in health promotion and disease prevention? It might include such mantras as “You too can prevent melanomas. Tell your clients today!” In fact, Massachusetts is doing just that says NPR. Whether it will work remains to be seen. But next time you go to the hair stylist you might want to ask, “Anything looking funky on my scalp?” What your stylist says just may save your life.

Summer Johnson McGee, PhD

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