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Two northern Ont. med students leading national skin cancer detection program

Two medical students from Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) are leading an innovative new program to train hairstylists and barbers across Canada to spot suspected skin cancer on their clients.

The Styling Hair and Saving Lives program, also called Sty-Lives, is being led by Sudbury-native Dr. Miranda Waugh, who is a first-year dermatology resident at the University of Ottawa after graduating from NOSM earlier this year, and current student Shannon D’Angelo.

The program is being supported by Save Your Skin Foundation as well as three leading dermatologists from Sudbury, Vancouver and Quebec City.

“Sty-Lives is a project that was created after identifying the need for more education and awareness around potentially dangerous skin cancers in a field whose focus revolves around hard to visualize areas of the scalp and head,” Waugh said in the news release.

“Many patients seek care due to skin concerns raised by their hairstylists and it was important to help support them in this role and empower them with resources.”

“Through the Sty-Lives program and video, participating salons and barbershops are provided with training materials and resources and are taught how to detect suspicious spots,” Save Your Skin Foundation said in a news release Monday.

“Medical students from across the country have been recruited to help lead this effort in their respective regions.”

Skin cancer is Canada’s most common type of cancer, according to the federal government, representing one-third of all new cases of cancer.

Kathy Barnard, the founder and president of Save Your Skin Foundation, is a cancer survivor who credits her hairstylist with detecting a lesion on her head that would have been hard to spot herself.

“This program has the potential to make such a huge impact. I had a squamous cell carcinoma on my scalp that was spotted by my hairstylist,” Barnard said.

“I’m a Stage 4 melanoma survivor, so I am checking my skin all the time, but because of where the lesion was, I didn’t see it.”

The program is open to all hair professionals in Canada. Interested stylists and barbers can register online here.

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