Hair not enough to protect scalp from sun damage

March 17, 2010

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hatHOUSTON – Whether your scalp is covered with a full head of hair or not, dermatologists at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston say play it safe and protect your scalp.

"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.

Drug stores now carry shampoo or leave-in conditioners that include sunscreen, Orengo said, but the best prevention method is to wear a hat with at least a three-inch brim around the entire head or to carry an umbrella for shade. When applying sun block to the face, don’t forget the hairline and the ears, she added.

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.

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