There's no question that the best way to beat skin cancer is to spot it early. Unfortunately, it's hard for you to see what may be growing on your own scalp or on the back of your neck. However, there is someone who already looks at that area carefully—your hairdresser.

According to a study that received completed surveys from 203 Texas hair stylists, 37 percent reported that they routinely looked at their clients' scalps and 29 percent said that they examined their clients' necks for lesions. More than half of the stylists said they'd be extremely interested in formal training to help them screen their clients for skin cancer. Several stylists said they have pointed out abnormalities to their clients and encouraged them to follow up with their doctor.

Hair stylists are perfectly positioned for screening skin cancer. First of all, the way they partition hair for cutting or coloring allows them to look at different areas of the scalp. They have a unique view of the back of your neck and ears, and because they see the same clients on a regular basis, they have the ability to notice a change in part of your skin—one of the biggest indications that cancer could be present.

Organizations like the American Academy of Dermatology are developing plans to partner with salons and schools to help educate stylists. While this kind of screening is no substitute for an annual dermatologist checkup, it is another way to ensure any lesions are caught as early as possible.

Skin cancers like basil cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma are nearly 100 percent treatable if they're detected early. While you can self-check most parts of your body, use a tool like a Body Mole Map to track changes in moles or take note of skin abnormalities in areas that are hard to detect. Additionally, since these areas are frequently exposed to the sun, the chances of developing skin cancer on your neck, scalp, and face are higher.

Talk to your hair stylist about studying these hard-to-see areas for you. If they're not sure what to look for, ask them to look for any flesh-colored or clear lumps, red or bloody sores, scaly patches, or moles that look discolored, have irregular borders or colors, or have grown larger from the last time they saw them. If your stylist does see something suspicious, have it checked out by a dermatologist right away.



Sources: "Skin Cancer Signs and Symptoms," American Academy of Dermatology. Web. 2011. "Body Mole Map," American Academy of Dermatology. Web. November, 2009.

Elizabeth E. Bailey, MD; Ashfaq A. Marghoob, MD; Ida F. Orengo, MD; Marcia A. Testa, MPH, PhD; Victoria R. White;Alan C. Geller, MPH, RN "Skin Cancer Knowledge, Attitudes, and Behaviors in the Salon." Archives of Dermatology. Web.  January, 2011.