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Hairstylists Are Performing Skin Cancer Screenings

Why Your Stylist Might Save Your Life

In medieval Europe, there existed barber surgeons: haircutters who also happened to perform some minor medical procedures like bloodletting and teeth pulling. And in modern times, it seems the stylist/medical connection just may be drawing closer — although not quite to Middle Ages extremes.

A recent study performed by Harvard's School of Public Health found that of 203 Houston-area hairstylists polled, 58 percent had recommended that their clients have suspicious moles checked. Since stylists work so close to their clients' hair, scalps, necks, and faces, this gave Alan Gellar, the study's coauthor, pause. He, along with his Harvard colleagues, are currently working with the Melanoma Foundation of New England, and have formed The Skinny on Skin, a Massachusetts program to help educate hair professionals on what to look for when it comes to possibly cancerous spots on their clients' skin. To find out more, just keep reading.

The program is not meant for stylists to cause unnecessary alarm, but to take advantage of the fact that they have frequent contact and good relationships with their customers. "Almost every dermatologist I've talked to anecdotally has said to me, 'Yes, I've had a melanoma case referred to me by a hair professional,'" Gellar explained to Shots, NPR's health blog. And since 80 percent of common skin cancers, like basal and squamous cell carcinomas, are located on face, scalp, and neck, any type of early detection is key.

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