According to Cancer UK, cases of melanoma skin cancer have more than doubled since the early 90s and rates are predicted to only rise in years to come. With that in mind, monitoring the moles on our face, torso, legs and arms is more important than ever - but what about those on our scalp?
A part of the body that is too often overlooked, Edward James Salons & Spas is hoping to shed light on this potential problem area in support of Stand Up To Cancer, by sharing their experiences. “Cancer affects many people and treatment is something that many of our clients unfortunately have had to undergo,” says Edward. “I have had two clients recently diagnosed with malignant melanoma on their scalp,” he recalls. “In one case, it was something that I noticed and brought to the client’s attention. This made me realise that as hairdressers and beauticians we can help our clients to spot skin cancer signs and symptoms early.”
With early diagnosis proving pivotal in successful treatment, a hairdresser is in a unique position for raising red flags to their clients and recommending that they seek medical advice sooner rather than later. Consultant dermatologist Dr Sharon Wong agrees that they can indeed play an important role: “Most people have a regular hairdresser they see every few weeks - possibly more frequently, especially for some men,” she comments. “By having the same person seeing your scalp on a regular basis, they will be able to point out if anything has changed. This in itself can be potentially life-saving.”
If mole checking your scalp didn’t even cross your mind as something to have on your radar, you’re certainly not alone. Dr Wong notes that it’s a common occurrence among her clients. “The scalp is a difficult area to monitor - either due to it being covered with hair and/or us physically not being able to easily see parts of it,” she says. “It is also an area that gets overlooked in terms of sun protection, yet the scalp constantly receives some degree of UV radiation on a daily basis. The combination of these factors may mean a greater risk of spotting skin cancers late.”
So what are the signs that you and your hairdresser should look out for? Firstly, keep an eye out for any new moles. Secondly, monitor both these and any existing ones using the ABCDE rule as recommended by Dr Wong and the British Association of Dermatologists website . The rules are:
Asymmetry - the two halves of the area may differ in shape.
Border - the edges of the area may be irregular or blurred, and sometimes show notches.
Colour - this may be uneven. Different shades of black, brown and pink may be seen.
Diameter - most melanomas are at least 6mm in diameter. Report any change in size, shape or diameter to your doctor.
Evolution - see if a change in any of the ABCD features above are noted in your mole. E also stands for Expert - i.e. get it checked out asap by a doctor or consultant dermatologist if in doubt.
It’s worth noting that melanomas aren’t the only types of skin cancers that you can develop and ample consideration should be given to other varieties too. “The very sun exposed sites such as the head and neck are at risk of two other common forms of skin cancers called basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC),” explains Dr Wong. “These do not present as moles and so the ABCDE rule does not apply. BCCs and SCCs can show up as non-healing sores and scabs or new lumps in the skin which persist and progressively get bigger. Bottom line is if there is anything new, changing or not resolving, get a dermatologist to check it out.”
When it comes to preventative measures, ensure your suncare routine applies as much to your head as it does to the rest of your body. “For those who don't have hair, make sure a high factor sunscreen of SPF 50 that covers UVA and UVB is applied to the scalp, neck and ears,” advises Dr Wong. Two of our top picks in this regard include the silky La Roche-Posay Anthelios Xl Ultra Light Fluid SPF 50+ , £11.06, and the richer Skinceuticals Sheer Mineral UV Defense SPF 50 , £36.75.
“For those with hair, make use of leave-on products which contain UV absorbers/filters such as leave-in conditioners, mists and sprays,” recommends Dr Wong. A top pick of our Digital Editor Judy Johnson's is Ultrasun's lightweight Sun Protection Daily UV Hair Protector , £24. Philip Kingsley’s new Summer Solutions range is also a favourite - a collection of innovative styling and protective products for keeping hair healthy in the sun. Its Sun Shield UV Defence , £22, and summer edition Swimcap , £15, are very good indeed. However, if you’re low on funds - simply put a broad brimmed hat on. It’s recommended by Dr Wong as one of the best ways to protect the scalp - hair or no hair. And as for working with your hairdresser to spot potential warning signs, she advises a check every 1-2 months and taking pictures to keep track of any changes.
As part of Edward James Salons & Spas’ fundraising efforts for Stand Up To Cancer, they’re launching a HOPE natural wax candle. The candle retails at £25 with £15 going to charity. It is available at Edward James Salons & Spas in Putney and Clapham and at www.edwardjameslondon.com .
Is a mole worrying you? The Cadogan Clinic, one of the UK’s leading aesthetics and cosmetics clinics has just launched the Mole Package. The service includes a mole and lesion check, removal and histology. The Clinic’s Mole Check is the only service of its kind to be approved by the British Skin Foundation. Visit www.cadoganclinic.com for more details.