Hair Professionals Are Potential Skin Cancer Educators

Frequency of observation of lesions tied to health communication practices, not cancer knowledge

TUESDAY, Oct. 18 (HealthDay News) -- A considerable proportion of hair professionals are looking for lesions on their customers' scalp, neck, and face; and their personal self-reported health communication practices are significantly associated with the frequency of observation of lesions, according to a study published in the October issue of the Archives of Dermatology.

Elizabeth E. Bailey, M.D., from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues investigated the factors related to the observation of suspicious lesions on the scalp, neck, and face of customers by cosmetologists and barbers. The frequency with which the hair professionals from a chain of 17 salons looked for lesions during the previous month was determined through surveys. A total of 304 surveys were distributed, and 203 were completed at a hair professional educational conference.

The investigators found that 28.1 percent of the participants had received formal skin cancer education, while 49 percent were very or extremely interested in receiving such education. During the previous month, 37.1, 28.8, and 15.3 percent of the responding participants reported looking for suspicious lesions of more than 50 percent of their customers' scalps, necks and faces, respectively. The frequency of observation for lesions was not associated with the hair professionals' skin cancer knowledge (P = 0.48), but correlated significantly with their self-reported health communication and personal skin protection practices (P values, <0.001 and 0.05, respectively).

"Hair professionals are currently acting as lay health advisors for skin cancer detection and prevention and are willing to become more involved in skin cancer education in the salon," the authors write.

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