Stylists enlisted to spot skin cancer lurking under heads of hair

Posted July 31, 2013, at 9:13 a.m.

PARIS — Like many in her generation and before, Karin Dumas spent hours outside basking in the sun, slathered in baby oil.

“I’m from San Diego,” Dumas said. “I spent my whole life on the beach. I never used sunscreen.”

The 43-year-old Paris resident has paid the price.

Earlier this year, Dumas’ hairstylist, Michelle Campbell, owner of Hair Plus Salon in Norway, noticed a bump on Dumas’ scalp had grown larger and had begun to bleed. Campbell suggested Dumas have a doctor look at it. The bump tested positive for basal cell carcinoma: cancer.

“I had it for about five years and didn’t know what it was,” Dumas said. “Out of sight, out of mind.”

She went to her doctor who sent her to a dermatologist to have the spot biopsied. Two days later the doctor’s office called Dumas to tell her the cancer had to be surgically removed.

The quarter-size spot left a small hole in her head that took weeks to heal, but the surgery removed all traces of cancer.

Chuck Martin, a freshman science teacher at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School, is convinced that hairstylists such as Campbell are key to detecting suspicious skin conditions, particularly those hidden under a head of hair.

“(Dumas) is healthy today as a result of a terrific medical staff, but also a stylist and friend who suggested that she seek medical intervention that could have possibly been a lifesaver for Karin,” Martin said.

He has dedicated a $4,000 Faculty Aspirations Grant he received from the Oxford Hills School District to present a free skin cancer awareness program for hair stylists in the Oxford Hills community.

“I believe that this profession has the biggest impact in skin cancer detection in the Oxford Hills area as your jobs involve direct observation of the scalp where many skin cancers go undetected by individuals,” Martin wrote in a statement about the program that is set for Aug. 12.

“The impact that you have as a professional on early detection and reporting of suspicious skin spots is huge,” he said.

The two-hour program, called Skinny on Skin, will be presented by the Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope & Healing from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School.

The program, which is free to hairstylists, will be led by Dr. Marcia Matuska, a dermatologist in private practice in Lewiston who teaches medical students and is a member of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Martin said his goal is to get 30 or more participants for the Oxford Hills program. Martin is also asking for participants who have stories about identification of skin cancer on clients.

Melanoma is the most common cancer among women ages 25 to 32. As many as 10,000 people per year die from melanoma. According to the Melanoma Foundation of New England, the rates are increasing faster than nearly all other cancers, but it is relatively easy to prevent.

ldixon@sunjournal.com

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