How to spot the signs of skin cancer on your clients
Skin cancer is the most common forms of cancer in the UK, with at least 100,000 new cases every year. And with people often visiting their hairdresser or beautician more than their GP, as a hair and beauty professional you’re in a unique position to help in the fight against skin cancer. Here’s how.
What is skin cancer?
There are many types of skin cancer and they all look different - from moles and lesions to patches of dry or red skin. Malignant melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer and is one of the most common cancers in people aged 15-34 in the UK.
Some types of skin cancer appear on the scalp, nail beds and soles of the feet - the very areas as a hairdresser, barber or beauty therapists you’re likely to see.
Claire Dale from the charity Skcin, who run an online MASCED.UK course - short for Melanoma and Skin Cancer Early Detection - for hair and beauty professionals, says, “You could have skin cancer on your scalp and have no idea. No one sees your scalp apart from your hairdresser. We want to educate everyone in the hair and beauty business, from the hairdresser to the Saturday girl at the backwash, to know what to look out for.”
“Last summer one beauty therapist who’d done the course spotted four melanomas on her clients”
How to spot skin cancer
Spotting signs of skin cancer early is vital and can be lifesaving. When checking moles, follow the ABCDE rule:
- Asymmetry: one half of the mole doesn’t match the other.
- Border: edges are irregular or poorly defined.
- Colour: uneven colour or different colours within a mole.
- Diameter: the mole is larger than 6mm in size
- Evolving: the mole is changing in its size, shape or colour.
Weilin Wu, health information officer at Cancer Research says, “Hairdressers and beauty therapists are well placed to see things that might be unusual in their clients - a new mole or changes in the skin - and can then encourage them to see their doctor.”
How can hair and beauty professionals spot signs of skin cancer?
One way to learn more about skin cancer is through the MASCED accreditation.
Claire Dale says, “We wanted to harness the power of hair and beauty professionals because we are seeing them regularly and we talk to them more than we talk to our GPs.
“The different types of cancer can all appear very differently. By the end of our training you’ll have an understanding of what all the skin cancers can look like - the deadly ones and the non-deadly ones.
“For example melanomas that appear on the hands, on the nail bed, on the palms and soles of the feet. Nail technicians are very well placed to see that and really do need to know what a melanoma look like because they’re probably one of the only people to see them.”
The online accreditation, worth two CPD points, takes around an hour to complete and costs £20. Claire adds, “Last summer one beauty therapist who’d done the course spotted four melanomas on her clients. She saved four people’s lives. We get emails from people thanking us and saying their hairdresser or beauty therapist spotted their skin cancer. It makes you realise how important it is to get this awareness out there.”
How to talk to your clients about skin cancer
It can be difficult knowing how to raise serious subjects with your customers. Claire says, “We’re looking to educate hair and beauty professionals and give advice on how to raise the subject in a very sensitive manner.
“In the first instance you could say to your client, ‘Are you aware you have a mole or a bit of a dry patch? I noticed you had this last time you were here.’ You can then say you’ve completed an accreditation recently educating you in skin cancer awareness and it’s very important to be aware of what marks you have on your body.
“You can also offer to take a photo of the mark or mole and then suggest to the client you take another photo when they come back for their next appointment to see if it’s changed. If it does look suspicious, always recommend they see their GP.”
Find out more about the MASCED course.