The ear isn’t somewhere you might regularly think to check. But in fact it’s a common site for some types of skin cancer. Ears are often exposed to sunlight, and miss out on proper coverage when sunscreen is applied. They also have a strange shape, meaning small lesions can hide away in a fold.
A recent study found the ears were the third most frequent site for basal cell carcinomas, and can occur on any part of the ear even areas hidden from the sun such as the bowl. The image below shows the anatomy of the ear and the different locations skin cancers were found.
Interestingly skin cancer on the ears was more prevalent in men than women. The researchers suggested that this was to do with poor sunscreen application, and shorter hair meaning less protection from the sun.
The numbers in the circles indicate the number of skin cancers that were found on each part of the ear in a study of 113 skin cancers.
Fewer than 33% of people routinely use sunscreen or sun protection. Awareness is increasing, but good technique and regular application are still lacking. About 30g of sunscreen are needed to cover the whole body, but most people only apply only a quarter to a half of that amount. And this rarely goes on their ears.
The ear is a very complicated structure with grooves, ridges, rims and crevices. So you need to spend a bit of time putting sunscreen everywhere.