Skin cancer knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors in the salon: a survey of working hair professionals in Houston, Texas

Arch Dermatol. 2011 Oct;147(10):1159-65. doi: 10.1001/archdermatol.2011.184.


Objective: To determine factors related to the observation of suspicious lesions on the scalp, neck, and face of customers by hair professionals (cosmetologists and barbers).

Design: Survey of hair professionals in January 2010.

Setting: Single hair professional educational conference.

Participants: Hair professionals from a chain of 17 salons in the greater Houston, Texas, area.

Main outcome measure: Frequency with which hair professionals looked for lesions on their customers' scalp, neck, and face during the previous month.

Results: Of 304 surveys distributed to hair professionals, 203 were completed (66.8% response rate). Few hair professionals had received formal skin cancer education (28.1%). Forty-nine percent of hair professionals were "very" or "extremely" interested in participating in a skin cancer education program. Of responding participants, 37.1% looked at more than 50% of their customers' scalps, 28.8% looked at more than 50% of their customers' necks, and 15.3% looked at more than 50% of their customers' faces for suspicious lesions during the preceding month. Frequency of observation of customers' lesions was associated with hair professionals' self-reported health communication practices (P < .001) and personal skin protection practices (P = .05) but was not associated with hair professionals' skin cancer knowledge (P = .48).

Conclusions: This study suggests that hair professionals are looking for suspicious lesions on customers' scalp, neck, and face and are acting as lay skin cancer educators. These results provide evidence that hair professionals would be receptive to skin cancer education and that further investigation into the role of hair professionals in skin cancer prevention and detection campaigns is needed.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Barbering*
  • Carcinoma, Basal Cell / psychology*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / psychology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Melanoma / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Skin Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Texas
  • Young Adult