Mold grandfather's skin cancer warning after losing ear

Reporter:

David Humphreys

A grandfather-of-four who lost skin from half his head through cancer has issued a warning over safety in the sun.

Alun Smith, 85, shared pictures showing the extent of his basal cell carcinoma (BCC) which cost him his left ear.

Alun, from Mold, warned attitudes towards tanning were creating generations of people who may find themselves struck down with skin cancer in later life.

BCC is the most common form of skin cancer and Alun said that while he has always covered up while holidaying with his family, he neglected to wear a sun hat in his younger years.

The dad-of-two suspects exposure to the sun during his national service in Singapore 65 years ago may have been the root cause of the damage.

He said: “My doctors suspect I may have got it all that time ago but it lay dormant for many, many years.

“I don’t sunbathe, I’ve never done it. But when I was doing national service I would never bother with hats.

“If I saw a family on the beach now I would go and tell them. Young children are very, very susceptible and you should always cover them up.

“I don’t think the sun does you any good.” Alun’s ordeal started when he found a small lump on the side of his head, which he had inspected by a dermatologist.

“It started off as a little thing on the side of my face. No exaggerating, it was a quarter the size of my little fingernail,” he said.

“The dermatologist had two or three goes but discovered it was bigger than he first thought, and wasn’t able to get it all.

“After they cut it out they did a biopsy and found it was cancerous.”

Alun then underwent surgery before being referred to a specialist cosmetic and plastic surgeon, Gary Ross.

He said: “The specialists sat me down and told me the bad news.

“They said the previous treatments hadn’t got it all and they wanted to take my left eye and my left ear.

“I told them I wasn’t bothered about my ear, but I was quite keen on my eye.

“I was surprised. All of this came from absolutely nothing.”

Businessman Alun underwent a lengthy procedure which involved moving tissue from his cheek and scalp in order to reconstruct the defect.

A large piece of skin was also taken from his thigh and placed onto the left side of his head.

He now has a prosthetic ear which is held onto his head by two metal clips.

Alun said: “I can’t speak highly enough of Mr Ross. He saved my life, without a doubt.

“People always ask me what it’s like but quite honestly I forget about it most of the time. It doesn’t bother me at all.

“I don’t look in the mirror and think ‘Oh Christ, I need to go out and buy a wig’.

“I suppose I could shave the rest of my hair off, but it doesn’t bother me one bit. And other people don’t seem to notice, either.

“To look at me, you would never know my ear was prosthetic.

“It can make quite a talking point at dinner parties.”

Alun still regularly returns to the Christie Hospital in Manchester for check-ups, and to have any new skin lesions that appear on his face removed.

Email:

david.humphreys@nwn.co.uk

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