Online course trains hair stylists to spot signs of melanoma

Posted at 8:34 PM, Dec 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-30 23:27:10-05

When you hear the word "cancer," you think doctor's office, hospital, something clinical.

But when it comes to early detection, there's an entirely different army of workers being recruited to spot early signs of skin cancer. When you see who it is, you understand why it makes perfect sense.

There are certain patients you never forget.

"And I remember him saying, 'You know, I was in Vietnam and I've been a firefighter in Boston and I've never felt the pain and horror as going through this treatment."

When research nurse Sandy Allten talks about cancer, it's with pain and determination.

"For this project, I'm passionate because melanoma has always been one of the hardest to treat," Allten said.

She learned about a unique training video that teaches people about skin cancer. She wrote a grant and got unlimited access to free courses.

The video focuses on the one place that's often overlooked and teaching the one person that probably knows it best.

"You're a hairdresser, and who sees the head of your client more than you do? Nobody. This is something I would probably say to her, 'You know, you should have this looked at."

Related: Local woman makes it her mission to spread the word about dangers of melanoma

Lisa Lowe Gaddis is Allten's hair stylist. She took the melanoma course almost a year ago and has been keeping a closer eye on all her clients since.

"I've had two little boys that came in and had something unusual, so I told the mother," Gaddis said. "It turned out it wasn't anything serious, but they're still keeping an eye on it, so we took pictures so that way every time I do their hair I can look at it and make sure it hasn't changed."

One in five  Americans will develop skin cancer. Numbers are increasing every year, but there's a 98% chance of survival if caught early.

"I've had so many run-ins with cancer and if I can prevent it and I believe early detection is the key."

More than 11,000 hair stylists nationwide have taken the "Eyes on Cancer" course. The goal is to train 20,000 hair stylists by 2020.

"They were like, 'Wow, we could actually save a life.' You could absolutely save a life."

"Not only am I helping people feel good about their looks, but I can also help them stay healthy."

The goal is to get anyone to take this course and then tell their hairdresser to take it, too. You can visit to get the code to take it for free.