I’m a hairstylist and I can identify skin cancer on clients’ heads

YOUR hairdresser might just save your life, thanks to an initiative that trains stylists to spot signs of skin cancer.

A program called Sty-Lives – short for Styling Hair and Saving Lives – has been launched across Canada, led by two Ontario-based medical students with the Save Your Skin Foundation.


Hairdressers in Canada are trained on how to detect potential skin cancer in their clientsCredit: YouTube/ saveyourskinfdn
A program called Sty-Lives was launched last December


A program called Sty-Lives was launched last DecemberCredit: YouTube/ saveyourskinfdn

The foundation trains hairdressers to spot lesions on the ears, face and scalp of their clients.

Kathy Barnard, the foundation’s founder, told CBC’s Daybreak South: “Ninety percent of skin cancers are preventable if we catch them early enough.

Barnard, who is a melanoma survivor and lives in Pentiction, British Columbia, said 70 salons across the country, including 10 in British Columbia, have already signed up for the program.

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, approximately 8,700 people in Canada would be diagnosed with melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, in 2021 and 1,250 Canadians would die from it.

Barnard said hairdressers were in a unique position to be able to spot lesions early in hard-to-see areas.

“Most skin cancers are in the areas of the head, neck and behind the ear that we don’t usually see – the areas that are most exposed to the sun,” she said.

Barnard’s friend and neighbor Brian Dunn was diagnosed with melanoma last summer after his wife discovered a dark patch on his skin while cutting her hair.

The couple let Barnard examine the patch and she advised him to go see a doctor and get more tests.

“It was amazing how quick and quick it was. They had me operated…I feel great now,” said Dunn, a retired hairstylist who said he checks scalps at work For years.

“We can see parts of your head that you can’t. When we color, perm or cut, we’re close enough to your scalp to see what’s going on.”

Barnard helped set up the Sty-Lives program in December, prompted in part by Dunn’s experience.

Although the program does not ask hairdressers to diagnose skin cancer, it is designed so people can be alerted that they may need to see a professional and get tested, she said.

“We’re just providing all the equipment and training we can to these hairdressers and barbers to make sure their patients are going to get it checked out.”

All hairdressing professionals in Canada are eligible for training and registration is free.

“We’re very excited, it’s really gaining momentum and I think we can all really make a difference,” Barnard said.

Hairstylists will be able to look at parts of your head and neck that you just can't see


Hairstylists will be able to look at parts of your head and neck that you just can’t seeCredit: YouTube/saveyourskinfdn

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