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Could your hairdresser soon be doing your mole checks?

3 minute read
blonde girl getting her hair dried while hairdresser is checking scalp for moles

You’ve booked in with a hairdresser for your regular cut, colour and treatment, but instead of just leaving with locks that’d render Rapunzel resentful, you walk out with a referral to get a mole checked out.

Resourceful, or risky?

A survey of Texan hairdressers found that more than a third of hair professionals check for suspicious moles on the scalps on at least half of their clients – and most of them have referred people to doctors to get them checked out.

Leading to the big question: Should your hairdresser be trained to check your moles? How about your massage therapist, or pedicurist?

Credit: Cancer Council NSW

Why would they need to?

In Australia, we have one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world with about two-thirds of us diagnosed with skin cancer before we’re 70. Early detection is vital, because the sooner a cancer is identified, the better your chance of avoiding surgery, or death; making it so important that you are aware of any changes that might signify a skin cancer.

However, some parts of the body are easier to keep track of than others, which is where your hairdresser, massage therapist or pedicurist might come in.

More than a third of hair professionals check for suspicious moles on at least half of their clients

Who better to highlight any unusual marks on those ‘hard to spot’ places than someone whose job it is to get up close and personal with these areas?

Half of the hair professionals who were surveyed expressed interest in learning more about skin cancer and as a result, the researchers are looking into whether there’s any effect in providing a 20-minute education session to those hair professionals on the detection and prevention of skin cancers.

Many hair professionals are keen to help, but what does the medical industry have to say?

man getting hair washed at hairdressers

The downside

Reuters spoke with Dr. Martin Glud, a dermatologist at Bispebjerg Hospital who raised concerns that hair salons doubling as screening centres could result in over-diagnosis – and put even more pressure on an already stretched health care system.

“As a rule, you should do what you’re good at. If you’re a hairdresser, that’s cutting hair, with all due respect,” said Dr Glud.

While there continues to be disagreement in the industry on whether this grass roots approach should be encouraged, Dr. Michael LeFevre from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force concluded,

“To raise the individual’s awareness that there is something there is not inappropriate. That is different from referring them to the doctor.”

In the future, it’s possible you won’t even need to visit the doctor to get a suspicious looking mole checked out – all you’ll have to do is take a pic with your smartphone and let artificial intelligence (AI) do the rest. Read more with our article Got a suspicious looking mole? There could be an app for that!

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