Spotting Signs of Skin Cancer in Your Barbershop




This article is how you can be aware of spotting skin cancer in your barbershop. As barbers we meet lots of customers in our shops and over time we can and do, develop a natural and easy rapport with them.

And during these visits we get to talk about lots of issues, some of it quite personal.

Over the last few years there has been some amazing work done in the area of mental health, by such inspiring people such as Tom Chapman at the Lions Barbers Collective.

As barbers we need to use this personal contact we have with our clients. If fact we can use this physical contact we have to spot the early signs of various types of skin cancer.

skin cancer

A while back I noticed a dark mole on the ear of one of my clients. As he was a regular I was sure that I hadn’t noticed this before. After I had finished his cut I mentioned it and said although it was probably nothing to worry about, he might want to get it checked out at the doctor’s surgery, which is just across the road from my shop.

A few weeks later, he came back into my shop, to thank me. He had gone straight over to the surgery, had it checked out and had a small operation to remove it a few weeks later. The doctor told him that as it was caught early, no further treatment was needed.

“The point is not to make barbers feel like they have to diagnose, but to give them a couple of clues about when they should refer clients to a doctor. They can really change people’s lives. Melanoma is a cancer that kills people. Others, like basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, don’t kill, but if you catch them early enough they are easy to take care of.

The big question is how do we know, as barbers, what to look for and what other advice can we offer?

What exactly is Skin Cancer- And What Are the First Signs?

By far the most common forms of skin cancer, that we may come across, are called ‘non-melanoma’. This type of cancer is normally a persistent raised lump or a slight discolouration of the skin.

The less common form of skin cancer is called ‘melanoma’. This type of cancer can be very serious and even life threatening. You may notice a new mole, on the ear or the neck of the client, or it could be a change to an existing mole.

Most types of skin cancer are thought to be caused by the harmful ultraviolet light, which can cause damage to the DNA of the skin cells.

Increase of Skin Cancer Cases.

According to recent research carried out by the skin checking app Miiskin, 25% of British people have never checked themselves for skin cancer. And the worrying thing about this, is that skin cancer is on the rise in Britain, with more than 100,000 new cases being diagnosed each year, resulting in 2,500 deaths from the disease annually.

Over the last ten years, Government statistics show a 36% rise in skin cancer deaths.

“Even a dermatologist can’t adequately examine the scalp the way a barber can”

Which Clients Are Most At Risk?

Most people who are diagnosed with skin cancer are over 50, but you should probably assume that everyone is at risk. You should also be aware that some clients may be more prone to it than others. What factors would influence this?

• Those clients who have lots of holidays in the sun
• Younger clients who use sunbeds
• Red or fair haired people
• Freckly people and those with fair skin.
• Clients who are thinning or have bald patches.
• Clients who tend to work ourdoors.

skin cancer

Where To Look For Signs

The key areas to look for any problems are:

• The top of the head
• On and around the top of the ears
• Around the back of the neck
• The face especially the nose

Be aware that some of these areas can’t be seen by the client. However, don’t ignore other areas that the client can see. Changes on the skin, can often develop quite slowly and they may not have noticed the change themselves.

What To Look For.

So the big question is, ‘What do I look for?’
You should look for anything that doesn’t seem right or something you haven’t noticed before. If the client is a regular, you may notice:
• A new growth, mole or a sore that doesn’t heal.
• A noticeable change in the size or colour of an existing mole
• A red swelling, that may bleed a little.
• A mole or growth that bleeds, or had scabbed over.

The earlier we spot the signs of a skin cancer the better it is. But sometime these early signs can be a little difficult to spot. So it’s a good idea to know what to look for.

The most common sign of skin cancer that, as barbers, we will see is a change in appearance to a mole, a freckle or even on a normally healthy patch of skin.

Below are some photos of things to watch out for with melanoma skin cancer. Please be aware that not all skin cancers that you see look like these pictures.

skin cancer

The two sides don’t look the same.

skin cancer
Irregular border — edges may be blurred or jagged
skin cancer
Uneven colour, with more than one shade
skin cancer
Large size — usually at least the size of the end of a pencil
Images courtesy of Cancer Research UK

What if I spot something on my client?

If you do happen to spot any of the above or similar, that may be a cause of concern, it is crucial you tell your client. This can be done privately on the pretense that you wish to show them something in another room.

Or you could pretend they have left something on your station and rush after them once they have left the shop. Try not to alarm or worry them, as it will probably be nothing to worry about. Explain to them that you’re not an expert but ask them to get it looked at as soon as possible, to remove any doubt.

“Almost every dermatologist I’ve talked to anecdotally has said to me, Yes, I’ve had a melanoma case referred to me by a hair professional,” Alan Geller

You can find out more on this crucial subject here:

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