Merkel Cell Carcinoma

Merkel cell carcinoma is a very rare form of skin cancer in which malignant cells form in cells in the top layer of the skin. Merkel cell carcinoma is also called neuroendocrine carcinoma of the skin or trabecular cancer. Merkel cells are very close to the nerve endings that receive the sensation of touch.

Merkel cell carcinoma starts most often in areas of skin exposed to the sun, especially the head and neck, as well as the arms, legs, and trunk. It tends to grow quickly and to metastasize at an early stage. It usually spreads first to nearby lymph nodes and then may spread to lymph nodes or skin in distant parts of the body, lungs, brain, bones, or other organs.

Sun exposure and having a weak immune system are risk factors for Merkel cell carcinoma.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer diagnosed in the United States with more than 5 million new cases identified each year. The most common forms of skin cancer are basal cell and squamous cell skin cancer. Melanoma accounts for slightly less than 5 percent of skin cancers diagnosed each year in the United States.

Skin Cancer Prevention (PDQ®) Merkel Cell Carcinoma Treatment (PDQ®)

Source: National Cancer Institute