How Your Hairdresser Could Save You From Cancer

By Danielle Betteen

The other day, I found myself enjoying the warm weather outside. Afterward, it occurred to me I didn’t have any sunscreen on all day. I was so excited to be outside I completely forgot. I should know better. Last year, my cousin Katie, who’s in her early 20s, had skin cancer removed from her leg. She now has a permanent reminder on her leg so she doesn’t forget to put on sunscreen. Had she worn sunscreen properly she could have avoided sunburn and skin cancer.

Thinking about this got me wondering if more could be done to aid in skin cancer prevention, beyond applying sunscreen and performing self checks for moles. I started wondering if hairdressers and others in the hair and skin care field could play a greater role in helping to detect potential skin cancer cases. I see my hairdresser far more than I see a doctor, and it’s easier to get an appointment with my hairdresser than my dermatologist.

It turns out that hairdressers inspecting clients for skin cancer isn’t a new concept. A study published in the Archives of Dermatology, found that 37.1 percent of hair professionals in Houston looked at their clients’ scalps, 28.8 percent looked at clients’ necks and 15.3 percent looked at clients’ faces.

As with any cancer, early detection is key to successfully treat and cure skin cancer. We’re repeatedly told to protect our skin from the sun’s harmful rays, avoid tanning beds and inspect our skin, freckles and moles for irregularities. But, it’s hard to inspect the skin on our heads and the back of our necks. These areas also have higher rates of skin cancer death compared to other areas of the body.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. In 2008, 8,623 people in the U.S. died from skin cancer. In North Dakota, approximately 17.3 – 19.1 people per 100,000 state residents developed or died from melanoma of the skin in 2008. Despite these statistics, there isn’t a regular screening process in the U.S for skin cancers like those that exist for other cancers or diseases.

Could your hairdresser spot early signs of skin cancer in those hard to inspect areas? I don’t see why not. Would you want your hairdresser or barber to tell you if they spotted a potentially serious skin irregularity? Tell us what you think.

Danielle Betteen is a Web Designer at Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota. For more information, contact

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