Melanoma of the External Auditory Canal: A Review of Seven Cases at a Tertiary Care Referral Center

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Objectives/Hypothesis: Examine the presentation and management characteristics of seven patients with melanoma of the external auditory canal (EAC). Study Design: Retrospective case series and review of the relevant literature. Methods: Records of seven patients from 2003 to 2017 with melanoma of the EAC were reviewed for characteristics of presentation, subsequent management, and outcomes. A thorough review of relevant literature is presented. Results: The median age is 52 years, with four females. The average Breslow depth was 3.6 mm, with five patients having a Clark level IV or greater on presentation. Six patients underwent lateral temporal bone resection, and one patient underwent wide local excision of the cartilaginous canal. Sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) was performed in three patients. Three patients experienced distant recurrence an average of 20 months following primary therapy. Median follow-up was 21 months. At last follow-up, four were free of disease, one had active disease, and two were deceased from melanoma. Conclusions: This is the largest series and the first to report the use of SLNB for patients with EAC melanoma in the peer-reviewed literature. Patients with external auditory canal melanoma present with higher Breslow thickness and stage relative to all external ear melanomas. Management should include wide local excision, which entails lateral temporal bone resection when the bony ear canal is involved. SLNB has a critical role in identifying patients with early metastatic disease. Postoperative radiation therapy should be considered for patients with high-risk features to reduce the risk of locoregional relapse. Chemotherapy, and especially immunotherapy, has an emerging role for this disease. Level of Evidence: 4 Laryngoscope, 131:165–172, 2021.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)165-172
Number of pages8
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • Melanoma
  • auricular melanoma
  • external auditory canal
  • otologic malignancies
  • sentinel lymph node biopsy.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology

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