Dr. Randy Martin: Your hair professional can not only give you a tremendous hairstyle, but he or she may actually be a lifesaver in that he or she could detect potentially deadly skin cancers. I met with Candy Shaw Codner, owner of Jamison Shaw Hairdressers, to find out more.
In an article recently published in the Archives of Dermatology, hair stylists were surveyed about how frequently they scan clients for skin cancer and whether or not they would want to be trained in skin cancer screening procedures. Candy Shaw Codner, owner of Atlanta-based Jamison Shaw Hairdressers, says it is common for hair professionals to scan a client’s scalp and neck for suspicious spots that may be skin cancer.
According to the study, 203 hair stylists completed a questionnaire regarding their attitudes and habits regarding client skin cancer screenings. Of these participants, 37 percent answered that they looked at more than half of their clients’ scalps for problems in the past month. Fifty-eight percent said they have recommended a client see a dermatologist for an abnormal skin issue.
“Many years ago, it was taboo to say anything to a client if you saw something that looked a little abnormal,” says Codner. Now, her salon trains staff to screen clients for suspicious moles or spots, and encourages them to speak up if they notice something worrisome.
Codner has a personal reason for why her staff is educated on skin cancer screening and awareness.
“I lost my cousin, Donielle Shaw, to melanoma [when she was] 32,” she says. “She, too, was a hairdresser. She had a mole removed from her neck and it was misdiagnosed. She fought a valiant fight for three years before succumbing to melanoma.
“In her tragedy, we turned our tears into something good,” Codner explains. “Through the Top 10 Salons of Atlanta [organization], we started the foundation ‘You Can Make a Difference’ to raise money for awareness, get free screenings for the hair industry and to spread the message across the country that [hair professionals] are the first line of defense.”
She says that early detection is a key point she and her staff emphasize with their clients.
In her 30-year career as a hair professional, Codner says she has detected numerous abnormal spots on her clients’ skin and has advised more than a dozen women to see their dermatologist.
“[As hair professionals], we have a license to touch and it opens a line of communication with your client,” says Codner. “It’s very important that we use this to our advantage. I think hair salons should put [skin cancer screening education] as part of their protocol.”
Dr. Randy Martin: The National Cancer Institute recommends that you examine yourself monthly for any changes in moles or on your skin. Talk to your doctor if you notice anything suspicious. Finally, next time you go in for a trim or color treatment, ask your hairstylist to let you know if he or she notices anything abnormal. He or she may be your first line of defense against potentially deadly skin cancers.