American Cancer Society Atlas of Clinical Oncology: Skin Cancer – Chapter 8.2: Merkel Cell (Cutaneous Neuroendocrine) Carcinoma

January 1, 2001


American Cancer Society

Publication Date

January 1, 2001


Nghiem P, McKee PH, Haynes HA, In Sober AJ (eds), Haluska FG (eds)

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Merkel cell carcinoma (primary cutaneous neuroendocrine carcinoma, trabecular carcinoma) is a rare but often lethal tumor of uncertain histogenesis. Five cases were originally described by Toker in 1972 as “trabecular carcinoma of the skin.” This name was derived from the most characteristic (but least common) of three distinct histologic patterns for this tumor. Later electron microscopic analysis revealed cytoplasmic neurosecretory granules in the cells of this carcinoma and linked it to its most likely precursor, the Merkel cell. Pathologists suggest that this tumor should be called neuroendocrine carcinoma of the skin because it is highly analogous to such tumors in the lung (small cell carcinoma) and other sites, likely sharing a similar precursor cell.

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