Featured News Hairdressers to look for dangerous cancers

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Wed, 7 Jun 2023

Hairdressers to look for dangerous cancers

Image: Allef Vinicius

Hairdressers and barbers could play a vital role in detecting skin cancer as part of a James Cook University project.

Brodie Campbell is a fifth-year medical student at JCU. She says Australia has the highest incidence of skin cancer in the world, with rates expected to increase by 2030.

“Cutaneous melanoma of the face, scalp and neck are especially dangerous and are often detected later due to difficulties identifying these lesions when you’re self-examining. Since early detection is a key factor for improving survival, the need for improved initiatives is clear,” said Ms Campbell.

She said research indicates between a third and half of hairdressers in the US examine clients’ scalps for skin lesions.

“A US study found that 10% of scalp and neck melanomas were detected by hairdressers. Early detection is a key factor in survival and these patients presented 13 years earlier on average for treatment, with earlier stage cancers.”

She said there is arguably no better time to explore the role hairdressers play in the early detection of skin cancer and no better location than Townsville in North Queensland.

“To date, there are no Australian studies on hairdressers involved in skin cancer detection,” said Ms Campbell.

Ms Campbell has partnered with Skin Cancer College Australasia to provide a free training course that will help hairdressers and barbers recognise potentially dangerous lesions, how to approach the topic with clients and encourage them to seek a medical opinion.

Until the end of June, interested hairdressers, barbers and apprentices will be granted free access to complete the College’s 60 minute online training course on how to recognise possible skin cancers, and will fill in some quick online surveys.

They will receive a statement of completion recognising their training from the Skin Cancer College Australasia. Salons will also be given a QR code to display in their workplace to encourage clients to also take part.

CEO of the Skin Cancer College Australasia Lynette Hunt said hairdressers can play a key role in making their clients aware of suspicious lesions on their scalp and neck.

“These are places you can’t easily examine yourself. Importantly, our training is not aiming to teach hairdressers how to diagnose skin cancer – that is a job for qualified doctors. But empowering hairdressers to speak up when they see a suspicious skin lesion can potentially save lives,” said Ms Hunt.

Participants will be entered into a prize draw for a $200 gift card said Ms Campbell.

“Initially we are looking for hairdressers and barbers working within the Townsville area, including outer suburbs such as Alligator Creek, Bluewater, Alice River and Magnetic Island, with the possibility of rolling out the program across North Queensland.

If the program is well received, we would like to be able to expand the research more broadly across Queensland and perhaps nationally at a later date,” said Ms Campbell.

She said those interested can look at the Facebook Page 'Hairdressers Finding Skin Cancer Townsville' or contact her at brodie.campbell@my.jcu.edu.au

“What we’re trying to do is encourage the earlier identification of malignant lesions and increase the availability of skin cancer advice. Among other things we think this will help catch cancers in low socioeconomic and rural populations often missed by checks,” said Ms Campbell.


Brodie Campbell
E: brodie.campbell@my.jcu.edu.au