Due to a new educational program, a routine haircut at your local barber shop or a massage at your favorite spa could save your life

California-based nonprofit Eyes on Cancer is endeavoring to train barbers, stylists, and spa employees to recognize the signs of skin cancer, especially on the top and back of the head and back of the neck. Afterall, if caught at a very early stage, the 5-year survival rate for melanoma is more than 98 percent according to the American Cancer Society.

One Bothell salon, 18|8 Fine Men’s Salon, is leading the charge in western Washington by becoming the first salon to fully train and certify its entire staff with the Eyes on Cancer program.

“Why wouldn’t we train hair care professionals and spa people (to recognize skin cancer) when they are basically looking at the top of people’s heads all day long,” salon owner Ron Barbera said. “Why not train them to be the first responders in the war on skin cancer?”

Barbera said this training is especially critical in the Pacific Northwest where the rate of melanoma incidents is higher than the national average, with more than 30 incidents per 100,000 males in 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Any hair care professional can enroll in the online training with just a $10 donation to Eyes on Cancer, earning a printable certificate after a 30-minute video and online quiz. Likewise, a salon owner can follow Barbera’s lead and cover the donation for their entire staff.

“We actually did the class portion together at a staff meeting,” he said. “It was actually a lot of fun because a lot of stuff is pretty gross and everyone has a laugh — but that is how they learn — it was almost like a fun party thing to do.”

Barbera said he doesn’t care if word of his staff’s certifications bring in more clients, instead he hopes other salons will take a few minutes to train their own staff.

“My goal here is to open my mouth and talk loudly to anyone who will listen,” he said.