Your hairdresser could save your life, further proof that not all heroes wear capes.
Salons across the province are training their stylists to detect early signs of skin cancer in clients through a program called Sty-Lives — short for Styling Hair and Saving Lives.
The pan-Canadian initiative – led by two Ontario medical students in partnership with British Columbia’s Save Your Skin Foundation – trains hairdressers to detect lesions on their clients’ ears, face and scalp.
“Ninety percent of skin cancers are preventable if we catch them early enough,” said Kathy Barnard, founder of the Save Your Skin Foundation, in an interview with Chris Walker on CBC. South Dawn.
Barnard, a melanoma survivor who lives in Penticton, British Columbia, said the program already has 70 participating salons across the country, including 10 in British Columbia.
The Canadian Cancer Society has estimated that in 2021, 8,700 people in the country will be diagnosed with melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, and about 1,250 Canadians will die from it.
Hairstylists are in a unique position to spot lesions early in hard-to-see areas, Barnard said.
“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.
Brian Dunn, Barnard’s friend and neighbor, was diagnosed with melanoma last summer after his wife noticed a dark patch on his skin while cutting his hair.
They asked Barnard to take a look at the patch and she advised him to see a doctor for further testing.
“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.”
Motivated in part by Dunn’s experience, Barnard helped found Sty-Lives in December.
She said the program does not ask hairdressers to diagnose skin cancer, but rather warns people that they might need to get tested.
“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.”
Training registration is free and all hairdressing professionals in Canada are eligible.
“We’re very excited, it’s really gaining momentum and I think we can all really make a difference,” Barnard said.