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Merkel Cell Carcinoma On The Rise

1 year, 9 months ago

4915  0
Posted on Mar 08, 2018, 2 a.m.

Merkel cell carcinoma is a rare type of skin cancer that is very aggressive and often deadly. New research suggests that unfortunately it is becoming more common, not as common as others only affecting a few thousand people each year, still the cases are increasing, as published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Compared to melanoma, merkel cell carcinoma is much more likely to be fatal, because incidence are increasing and it’s becoming less rare it’s important people be aware of it. Increasing incidence of melanoma over the past few decades prompted the researchers to investigate whether MMC incidence were increasing as well. After analyzing data from the National Cancer Institute’s SEER-18 registry the team found that their speculation was correct, MMC incidence was indeed increasing, but even more so than they had anticipated.


The number of cases of merkel cell carcinoma reported increased 95%, compared to melanoma increasing 57% and other cancerous tumors increasing by 15%. Based on population trends the team predicts that the incidence of merkel cell carcinoma will increase from the nearly 2,500 in 2013 to upwards of 3,200 by 2025.


Merkel cell carcinoma is more likely to affect people having prior history of cancer, elderly, men, and Caucasians, with age being a significant risk factor having increased rates at 10 times fold between the ages of 40-44, and 60-64, and an additional 10 times fold between the ages of 60-64, and 85+. It is believed that aging population is responsible for the increase as this type of cancer is more prevalent to elderly individuals.


Merkel cell carcinoma is associated with the Merkel cell polyomavirus which is common and often found on normal human skin and surfaces that are frequently touched. The majority of people won’t develop merkel cell carcinoma after exposure to the virus unless the immune system is not functioning well due to advanced age or other factors causing the chances of merkel cell carcinoma to develop after encountering the virus.


Merkel cell carcinoma is also associate with the exposure of unprotected skin to ultraviolet light, which is a risk factor for all types of cancer. Merkel cell carcinoma is tied to cumulative exposure over time, and it is recommended that a comprehensive sun protection plan be used that includes seeking shade, broad spectrum water resistant sunscreen, and protective clothings.


Merkel cell carcinoma has the best prognosis with early detection when it can be treated more successfully in early stages of onset. Being that MCC is highly aggressive it is more likely to grow and metastasize. Even though immunotherapy treatment has improved and vastly increased survival rates over previous chemotherapy methods metastatic merkel cell carcinoma still has a very high potential to be fatal, making early detection so important.


Merkel cell carcinoma does not appear on the skin as a dark mole as does melanoma, it appears as a firm lump that is red, purple, or skin coloured. It is often mistaken as a cyst or folliculitis, but lesions are typically not tender like bumps caused by other conditions, and they tend to grow rapidly. 


If you should find an unusual growth that is growing quickly and different than the other spots on your skin, it is best to seek out medical advice by a professional to be certain and safe for proper diagnosis.

Materials provided by: American Academy of Dermatology.

Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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