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Skin Cancer of the Ear, a High Risk Area

By HERWriter
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Most of us have become more diligent in applying sunscreen since it is clear that UV ray exposure to the skin is a major cause of skin cancer. However, it is hard to remember to rub sunscreen on our ears and they are frequently overlooked. Perhaps that is why the ear is the third most common location for basal cell skin cancer occurrence. Skin cancer of the ear does occur more often in men than women, but women are still at risk.

In a study reported by Dr. Kelley Pagliai at www.skincancer.org, of the 102 patients seen with skin cancer on their ears, 88 were men while only 14 were women. Another study of 656 people with squamous cell cancers of the ear all occurred to men.

Men typically have shorter hairstyles, combined with a lack of sunscreen use, are thought to contribute to their greater development of skin cancer of the ear. However, women are not immune as they often wear their hair up or also have short, thin hair that does not cover their ears.

What is skin cancer?

Skin cancer is caused by an uncontrolled overgrowth of cells and is the most common type of cancer Americans are diagnosed. Skin cancer is typically divided into the three types. Basal cell cancers are the most common and typically do not spread to other parts of the body. Squamous cell cancers are more serious, occur on the outermost flat skin layer and can spread to other parts of the body. Melanoma occurs in the cells that give our skin its color called melanocytes and are the most dangerous if it spreads to the lymph nodes and to other parts of the body.

Basal cell and squamous cell are considered non-melanoma skin cancers and it is estimated that there are over 1.3 million new cases each year. Treatment is determined by the size and location of the cancer and may include: surgical removal, topical creams, use of a curette to scrape away the growth followed by a mild electric current to destroy any remaining cells and a special surgery called Moh’s procedure that carefully removes thin sections of the lesion a little at a time.


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Thanks Pat! One of the things I thought about while writing this article is that most men wear baseball hats to shield their faces, but that leaves their ears totally exposed. Women who wear pony tails with baseball hats have the same exposure and it is easy to feel falsely safe since our faces are protected. All the more reason to put sunscreen on your ears.

October 13, 2009 - 10:22am
HERWriter Guide

Michelle - Thanks for this important information. You're absolutely right, the ears are often overlooked when it comes to sunscreen.

After I moved to Arizona I began seeing rough, chapped skin on my ears and went to several different sources for information on how to treat this. A wise woman asked me if I was new to Arizona and then told me that I was experiencing the effects of sunburned ears. While she didn't mention the skin cancer risk, she did help me realize that I needed to include my ears in my daily moisturizer and sunscreen routine. The skin problems cleared up almost immediately and haven't come back.

Amother caution I've learned about is the impact of the sun coming through the windshield while driving, and the need for sunscreen even during a short trip in the car. While it may not seem like outdoor exposure, it really is, and the risks are still there.

Thanks again for this critical self-empowHerment information.
Take good care,

October 12, 2009 - 5:46pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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