The following article features coverage from the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) 2019 Annual Congress. Click here to read more of Oncology Nurse Advisor‘s conference coverage.

ANAHEIM, CA — Learning of a published research report prompted nurses at a Florida cancer center to take on “The Hairstylist Melanoma Challenge,” a joint project with Eyes on Cancer, whose motto is Trained eyes save lives, to educate hairstylists to recognize suspicious lesions on their clients and suggest a visit to a physician or dermatologist. The initiative was described in a poster presentation at the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) 44th Annual Congress.

Although recent improvements in metastatic melanoma treatment are encouraging, prevention and detection at an early stage remain the ideal strategy for this potentially deadly skin cancer. In December 2017, JAMA Dermatology published a research report by Neda R. Black, MD, and colleagues, in which the authors discussed a project that involved educating hairdressers about the “ABCDEs” of melanoma of the scalp, head, and neck.

“This made so much sense. Who knows your head better than your hairdresser?” stated Sandy Allten, RN, OCN®, CCRP, of AdventHealth Cancer Institute in Daytona Beach, Florida, during the presentation at Congress. Ms Allten and fellow East Central Florida ONS chapter members contacted Eyes on Cancer, an established non-profit whose mission is to educate hair and beauty professionals (hairstylists, for both men and women, in particular) about skin cancer detection.

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To participate, hairdressers are instructed to watch a 20-minute online educational video and take a 35-question posttest. In addition, they receive a melanoma lesion photo ID card and can print a Certificate of Completion to display at their salon. “Basically, they are taught the ABCDEs of melanoma lesions,” Ms Allten explained.

If a hairdresser sees a suspicious lesion, he or she is asked to encourage the client to follow up with a physician. The hairdresser can even offer to take a photo of the lesion if it is in a place where the client cannot visualize it on his or her own.

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Eyes On Cancer charges $10 for the class. However, the Florida cancer center received a grant from the Bill Walter III Melanoma Research Fund that pays for 1 year of unlimited use of the online program/video passcode. The East Central Florida ONS chapter is working with their local hospital to make the program their chapter mission project.

The chapter members watch the video, then give a coupon code to their hairdresser to register for the class for free. Once the chapter members have engaged the hairdressers in their region, they are challenging other ONS chapters around the country to participate as well.

To encourage participation, the chapter members designed their own challenge website ( and Facebook page (, obtained local newspaper coverage, and teamed up with the hospital marketing department. They also reached out to other chapter presidents in northern Florida.

While the mission project has only just started, it is seeing a strong response. On February 15, 2019, the project had 12 participants and by March 9, 2019, that number has grown to 52. The team behind the project will be updating the numbers of hairdressers join “The Hairstylist Melanoma Challenge” on their website.

Future plans for the challenge include inviting the Association of Community Cancer Centers (ACCC) to participate, encouraging other ONS chapters to join their project, and tying this in to proposed skin cancer screenings. The group also hopes to increase their social media presence to help encourage as many others as possible to join the project. Within a year Ms Allten and colleagues plan to expand the program to include massage therapists as well.

“ONS has 39,000 members, if each one encourages just their own hairdresser to participate in this program we’ll have 39,000 hairdressers who see 6 to 12 clients per day. Look at the change we could affect with very little time and energy expended!” Ms Allten concluded.


Allten S, Foster D, Foster JB. “Simple, smart and doable: ONS nurse chapter challenge to educate and engage hairdressers in early detection of head and neck melanoma.” Poster presentation at: ONS 44th Annual Congress; April 11-14, 2019; Anaheim, CA.