Can you have skin cancer on your ear? Yes, while skin cancer can develop anywhere on the body, it primarily develops on areas that are frequently exposed to sunlight. That said, skin cancer on ears is more common than not, since ears see significant sunlight exposure. But what does skin cancer on the ear look like? We’re taking a look at the types of skin cancer on ears and what symptoms to be aware of in this overview.
Types of Skin Cancer on Ear
There are three types of skin cancer on ears: basal cell skin cancer, squamous cell skin cancer, and melanoma. Of the three, melanoma is the most serious ear skin cancer, as it is more likely to spread to other surrounding tissues. Basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers are common skin cancers and are highly treatable when caught early. Skin cancer on the ear typically develops on the outer ear, within the ear canal, or on the skin surrounding the ear.
What is the most common skin cancer on the ear? Melanoma is the most serious, but basal cell skin cancer is most common. It usually presents as a scaly area of skin on the ear that doesn’t heal on its own, followed by a white lump that grows slowly. It’s not uncommon for the lump to be painless, or for an ulcer to develop at its center. Later, the ulcer may bleed and become more painful. These lumps can spread to the other parts of the ear, but they don’t commonly spread to other areas of the body.
Body parts that are not commonly covered by clothing typically absorb more sunlight and ultraviolet (UV) rays, making them more susceptible to skin cancer. UV rays can be very damaging to skin cells, forcing them to regenerate at an accelerated rate. The face, head, neck, and ears are very common areas for skin cancer to develop due to their repeated sun exposure.
What Does Skin Cancer on the Ear Look Like?
Being aware of the early signs of skin cancer is one of the most valuable steps towards early intervention and treatment. There are a variety of skin cancer on ear symptoms, including differences in how it can appear. The most notable early warning signs are scaly skin or tiny white bumps around the outer ear; any skin abnormalities around the ear canal or outer ear should be evaluated by a dermatologist as soon as possible.
As skin cancer on the ear continues to develop, it can look like:
- Open sores or lesions
- Pink growths
- Red patches
- Shiny bumps
- Scaly patches
Skin cancer growths may bleed or crust over depending on their severity, with a possibility of puss. While skin cancer is typically a slow-developing disease, it can spread to other parts of the body if left untreated, especially from the ear to the face. Performing annual skin exams is a good way to stay on top of any changes in your appearance.
How is Skin Cancer on the Ear Treated?
For the various types of skin cancer on ears, there are multiple treatment options. Your specific diagnosis will dictate your treatment plan, but the most common methods are:
- Mohs surgery: This procedure can only treat one skin cancer at a time, and involves a surgeon cutting out the cancerous cells from the skin. Layers of skin are cut away and closely examined. This is done until there are no more signs of cancer. Bleeding, infection, scarring, and pain or tenderness at the site are risks associated with Mohs.
- Image-Guided SRT (IG-SRT): This method uses radiotherapy to break down and damage cancerous cells without cutting or scarring but with the same results as surgery. IG-SRT is incredibly effective at treating basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers, and allows patients to see their treatment progress through ultrasound imaging.
GentleCure™ is a surgery-free alternative to Mohs that utilizes Image-Guided SRT. GentleCure has a 99%+ cure rate for common skin cancers, and can effectively treat basal cell or squamous cell skin cancer without pain or surgical scarring, even on such a sensitive part of the body as the ear.
Skin Cancer on the Ear: Risk Factors & Prevention
Your face and head (as well as your neck, hands, and arms) get more UV exposure than any other part of your body. Neglecting to protect these sensitive and vulnerable areas can increase the likelihood that you’ll develop skin cancer. While exposure to UV rays is the most common cause of skin cancer on the ears, other risk factors can include:
- Having light-colored hair and fair or freckled skin
- Having many moles or irregularly shaped moles
- Sunburn easily and/or have a history of sunburns
- Family history of skin cancer
- Personal history of skin cancer
- Precancerous skin conditions, such as actinic keratoses or Bowen’s disease
- A weakened immune system
- Xeroderma pigmentosum — a rare, inherited condition that prevents skin cells from repairing damage to the DNA
- Other inherited conditions, such as Rombo syndrome, Bazex-Dupré-Christol syndrome, epidermolysis bullosa simplex syndrome, and nevoid basal cell carcinoma syndrome (also known as Gorlin syndrome)
Skin Cancer on Arms: Prevention
Limiting your exposure to both natural and artificial UV rays is the best way to prevent skin cancer behind the ear or on the ear. Avoid tanning beds, tanning booths, and sunlamps. Before you head outside for your daily errands or to visit the beach, go biking, etc., check the UV Index. When the UV Index is 3 or higher, take the following steps to shield your skin from UV rays:
- Stay in shaded areas.
- Wear a hat with a wide brim to protect your ears, as well as your head, neck, and face.
- Wear protective clothing.
- Wear sunglasses that block UV rays.
- Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SFP) of 15 or higher. Reapply every two hours.
GentleCure is the Surgery-Free Treatment for Skin Cancer on Ear
Now that you know what skin cancer on the ear looks like, talk to your dermatologist about treatment options. GentleCure is the new non-surgical gold standard in non-melanoma skin cancer treatment; contact us online or by phone to learn more about how it works and to see whether it’s right for you.