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.
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