Q: Dr. Eppley, I have bump on my upper ear that has been there as long as I can remember. My dad and sister have it also so it must be in my family genes. It feels firm but I can’t tell if it is skin or extra cartilage.While it doesn’t bother my other family members, I do not like it and want it removed so the rim of my ear is smooth. How easy is it to remove and will it leave any scar? It would not be worth removing if it left a scar which might be worse looking than the bump.
A: The bump on your ear to which you refer is incredibly common and is known as Darwin’s tubercle. It is a congenital thickening of the rim (helix) of the ear usually near the top at the junction of the upper and middle third of the ear. It is present in about 10% of all people and is inherited in an autosomal dominant fashion, hence your father and sister having it. It carries this name from the naturalist Charles Darwin who wrote about it in his book the Descent Of Man. He described it as a vestigial feature of man that serves as ‘proof’ of the link between man and primates. (check out a monkey’s ear)
A Darwin’s tubercle is an excess of cartilage that can be removed through a simple otoplasty procedure done from an incision on the underside of the bump. (inside of the helical rim) It can also be removed by direct excision of the skin and cartilage on the edge of the helix under local anesthesia. Either way, it can be removed without any significant or visible scarring. So scar concerns should not be a deterrent to having it removed.
Dr. Barry Eppley