Not just haircuts: how a Bothell salon is helping to spot skin cancer

  • Written by Kirsten Abel, Features Writer

18|8 Fine Men’s Salons in Bothell is joining the fight against cancer in an unexpected way.

Through a partnership with a nonprofit group called Eyes on Cancer, employees of 18|8 have been trained to identify possible occurrences of skin cancer on their clients.
“Most men come in to get a haircut every three to four weeks,” the salon’s owner, Ron Barbera, said. “The stylists will know their heads better than anyone.”

According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 87,000 new cases of melanoma, one of the most dangerous types of skin cancer, will be diagnosed in 2017.
Two less serious but much more common types, basal and squamous cell skin cancers, affect about 3.3 million people each year. Those cancers often occur on parts of the body that are exposed to the sun, like the head and neck.

ShaveA client receives a straight razor shave at 18|8 Fine Men’s Salons in Bothell, where the stylists are all trained to identify early signs of skin cancer. (Photo courtesy of 18|8 Fine Men’s Salons)As with other forms of the disease, early detection of skin cancer is crucial. That’s where Barbera’s employees come in. “We are that early warning system,” he said.
His staff participated in Eyes on Cancer’s short online training course that teaches the basics of skin cancer and the “ABCDE” identification process, which helps to recognize possible cancerous spots based on asymmetry, border shape, color, diameter and evolution or growth.

If and when a stylist notices something out of the ordinary on the back of a client’s neck, for example, the stylist tells the client and recommends seeing a dermatologist, without causing a sense of panic.

“My team is not there to diagnose,” Barbera said. “It’s all about creating awareness.”

An 18|8 franchise in Southern California was the first in the company to partner with Eyes on Cancer. Once Barbera heard about the program, he jumped on board immediately.

“It’s something I totally believe in,” he said. The Bothell salon was one of the first businesses in Western Washington to train their employees to become early detectors.
“Frankly, I would like to see lots and lots of people follow us,” Barbera said.

Eyes on Cancer has educated employees in hundreds of businesses across the country. The nonprofit’s goal in 2017 is to train 5,000 more.

Enrollment in the online training course costs $10 and can be completed at the participant’s own pace. At 18|8 in Bothell, all five employees took the course during a staff meeting.
Barbera, originally from New York, opened the salon in June 2015 after taking a break from a career as a relationship alignment consultant at IBM.

“I wanted to get into a business that was still very customer-centric,” he said.

18|8 offers haircuts, shaving and waxing services, coloring, scalp and face treatments and now, a little extra peace of mind. “They really like the idea,” Barbera said of his clients.
In the Pacific Northwest, where cloud cover can be the norm, skin cancer isn’t always thought of as a great concern.

But in fact, gray weather does not mean less cancer. Washington has one of the highest melanoma incidence rates in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We kind of forget that there is sunshine here periodically and we do walk around without hats on,” Barbera said.

To find out more about 18|8 Fine Men’s Salons, visit For information regarding Eyes on Cancer, visit

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