Macmillan Cancer Support Joins Forces with Barbers

To help more black men find the words to talk about cancer, Macmillan Cancer Support has partnered with the Hairforce 1 Training Academy to launch the hair salon project. This collective of London hairdressers is paving the way for the removal of taboos and the normalization of conversations about cancer in one of the cornerstones of the black community – the hairdressing salon.

Lee Townsend, Engagement Manager at Macmillan Cancer Support, told us: “The project has allowed men not only to learn more about prostate cancer, but also to normalize conversations about it and give them a space to speak freely and without judgment.”

A new analysis by the leading cancer aid Macmillan Cancer Support reveals the reluctance that some black men face when it comes to talking about their health and their feelings, as more than a third (37%) admitted that they do not like to share their true feelings and one in four (25%) do not feel at Given that black men are twice as likely to develop prostate cancer as white men and are more likely to develop it at a younger age, it has never been more important to feel comfortable learning about feelings and health problems.

After meeting Hairforce 1 at an event about cancer and working hair salon communities, Lee said, “We talked and had the idea to see how we can grow and create a network by involving other hairdressers.

“We are proud that there are almost 10 hairdressers across London who are currently participating in this project, and we are trying to expand and expand it.”

To further encourage conversations in hairdressing salons, the hairdressing salon project has placed a QR code on the mirrors that customers can recognize. “If you scan it with your mobile phone, go to the website where you get information,” says Lee. “It’s the way you can have these conversations in store.”

The hair salon project also released a three-hour mixtape produced by BBC Radio 1Xtra’s SEANI B. The mixtape is played in London hair salons, promoting important conversations about cancer. Between Reggae and Afrobeats, the mixtape features two Macmillan storytellers sharing their experiences with prostate cancer and an exclusive message from global Dancehall superstar and Grammy Award winner Sean Paul, who encourages black men to proactively look for symptoms of prostate cancer and discuss concerns with the doctor

The project is gaining ground and support in the black community across London, including by Errol McKellar, an advocate for prostate cancer awareness after his own diagnosis.

Errol says: “I know firsthand how isolating and overwhelming cancer can be and not enough men talk about it. It is so important for me to use my experience to share my story and encourage men to be aware of the signs and symptoms of cancer from the very beginning.

“I am honored and very proud to support the Macmillan Barbershop campaign. We organize a Sit-and-Talk program where men come to open up and realize that they are not alone-this journey begins at the Hair Salon.

“In my experience, it’s the people closest to you that men don’t want to talk to – it’s almost an outdoor space that they can. We don’t know the answer to why people open up in the hair salon, but you know that if you sit in the chair, the hairdresser will get a lot of information and conversations. It is the confidence that there is no judgment.”

Lee, who works closely with members of the black community and support groups, adds: “We hear day after day how cancer remains a taboo in some parts of the black community, especially among men, with many feeling the need to bottle up their feelings and ‘stay strong’.

“What I like about our work with the hair salon project is that it has created a safe space for black men to talk freely about Cancer and let them know that they are not alone. The hair salon serves as an essential tool to often start the first frank conversations about topics such as cancer, but there are also other ways to access support. There is the Macmillan helpline and the online community. No one with cancer should feel alone, whatever the question is, we are here for you.”