Merkel Cell is a rare but aggressive type of skin cancer. It has an increased risk of returning after treatment, and spreading to other organs in the body very rapidly usually within the first few years it occurs. It is 2-3 times more lethal than Melanoma. It is most common located on the skin of the head and neck. Risk factors for developing Merkel cell carcinoma include sun exposure, light skin, light eyes, and decreased immune system. Those patients with a history of organ transplant, HIV, or chronic lymphocytic leukemia are at the greatest risk. It is most common in older adults. Merkel cells can be a rapidly growing red, purple, or bluish firm and painless growth on the skin. The cause of merkel cell carcinoma is unknown, however, it is thought to be due to exposure to a virus that can infect the skin called the polyomavirus. People with suppressed immune systems appear to be more susceptible. MCC is diagnosed with a skin biopsy.
Merkel Cell can be prevented by avoiding sun during peak hours 10am- 4pm, wearing sunscreen daily with repeat applications while outdoors, and/ or wearing protective clothing.
Preventative skin exams are recommended for early diagnosis and treat these areas.
Merkel cell carcinoma is an aggressive type of skin cancer. It is treated with wide local excision of Mohs micrographic surgery. Radiation or chemotherapy may be utilized if the tumor cannot be cured with surgery alone.