“While most cases of skin cancer on the scalp are found in balding men, a full head of hair doesn’t mean you are fully protected,” said Dr. Ida Orengo, professor of dermatology at BCM and director of the Mohs Surgery Center at the Baylor Clinic.
Use extra protection
Dark thick hair gives more protection compared to blond wispy locks, but some type of extra protection should be used at all times. Drug stores now carry shampoo or leave-in conditioners that include sunscreen, Orengo said.
“The best prevention method is to wear a hat with at least a three-inch brim around the entire head,” she added. “If not a hat, which can be uncomfortable in the heat, then carry an umbrella for shade.”
Treatment for skin cancer on the scalp is the same as treatment for cancer on any other part of the skin – it must be cut out. Since there is not a lot of extra skin on the scalp, it is more difficult to close a hole left behind after removal, and there is a chance for a bald spot. However, there is a large blood supply found on the head so incisions usually heal well, Orengo said.
The most common forms of skin cancer found on the scalp are basal, squamous and melanoma, which can be deadly.
“Early detection is important, so if you have a regular hair dresser you might want to ask him or her to keep an eye out for any new moles or bumps,” Orengo said. “Most patients say it’s their hair dresser or barber that finds the skin cancer first.”
Those at risk for skin cancer should also have an annual full-body skin check, which includes the scalp.
Orengo cautions that it’s not just the scalp, but also the skin along the hairline and ears that is often forgotten when sun block is applied.
“You have to be diligent,” Orengo said. “Even if you have protection with shade, always wear sun block.”
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HOUSTON — (February 27, 2009)