Hairdressers should be trained to check their clients for the signs of skin cancer, health experts say.
American researchers believe that hairdressers should know what skin cancer looks like and how to spot the signs.
They added that hairdressers would not be expected to make a diagnosis or to scaremonger, but instead to tactfully point out any suspicious-looking lumps, bumps or sores they might find on a client's head or neck.
"We should not wait for our patients with skin cancer to come to us when it may be too late, but use research and outreach methods to improve early detection of head and neck melanomas by capitalising on the role of hairdressers and their unique relationship with our potential clients,” the US researchers wrote in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, reports the BBC.
Although skin cancer is more likely to appear on the trunk of the body in men and on the leg in women, a fifth of cancers occur on the head and neck in both men and women.
Cancer charities urge that skin cancer checks during regular haircuts should be mandatory in hair salons across the UK.
Sarah Williams from Cancer Research UK told HuffPost UK Lifestyle:
“In the UK there have already been information campaigns encouraging hairdressers and beauty therapists to mention anything unusual they notice to their clients – but it’s important that campaigns like this are properly planned and evaluated to see whether they are having a positive effect.
“Spotting skin cancer early makes treatment more likely to be successful. So it’s important to raise awareness of the changes to look out for and encourage people to visit their GP if they notice anything unusual.
“Signs of skin cancer everyone can look out for include changes to the size, shape or colour of a mole, any other change to a mole or patch of skin, or a sore that hasn’t healed after several weeks. If you notice any of these changes, it’s best to get them checked out by a doctor without delay.”
In the UK there are nearly 100,000 cases of non-melanoma skin cancer reported each year, with over 11,000 being cases of malignant melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer.
According to Cancer Research UK, skin symptoms include a spot or sore that doesn’t heal within four weeks, a spot or sore that continues to itch, scab, crust or bleed for more than four weeks and uncharacteristic changes to your skin.
Around 3,000 lives are claimed each year by malignant melanoma and over 500 from non-melanoma skin cancer.