Merkel Cell Carcinoma


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What Is Merkel Cell Carcinoma?

Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is a rare, aggressive skin cancer that is at high risk of recurring and spreading (metastasizing) throughout the body, with most recurrences taking place within two years after diagnosis of the primary tumor. While the disease is 40 times rarer than melanoma (an estimated 0.24 cases per 100,000 persons in the U.S, or about 2,500 cases total),  it kills about one in three patients compared with one in nine for melanoma. Approximately 700 people die from MCC each year in the U.S. 

MCC most often arises on sun-exposed areas in fair-skinned individuals over age 50. Its name comes from the similarity of these cancer cells to normal Merkel cells in the skin that are thought to be associated with touch sensation. Normal Merkel cells were first described more than 100 years ago by Friedrich Sigmund Merkel. 

Normal Merkel cells in the skin: In this illustration of a cross-section of skin, normal Merkel cells are shown in red and connect to nerves shown in yellow. The structures drawn include the epidermis (upper third), dermis (middle), and deeper adipose layer containing the fatty tissue. Arteries are depicted as red and veins are blue. Figure Copyright © by Paul Nghiem & Quade Medical Group.

Causes of Merkel
Cell Carcinoma
Risk Factors and
Warning Signs
Stages of Merkel
Cell Carcinoma

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