Merkel Cell Carcinoma: An Uncommon But Often Lethal Skin Cancer

December 1, 2009


The Skin Cancer Foundation Journal

Publication Date

December 1, 2009


Jayasri Iyer, MD, Paul Nghiem, MD, PhD

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Drs. Jayasri Iyer & Paul Nghiem publish an article MCC: An Uncommon But Often Lethal Cancer in the Skin Cancer Foundation Journal. This article describes MCC using easy to understand, non-technical language and includes information such as “Key Risk Factors”, Merkel cell polyomavirus and general diagnosis/treatment guidelines.


The number of reported cases of Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC), a relatively rare but dangerous skin cancer, has tripled in the last 20 years to approximately 1500 new cases annually in the US. There are several reasons for the increase. MCC was not routinely recognized by pathologists until the 1990s, when a highly effective microscopic stain (“CK20”), differentiating it from other cancers, was developed. In addition to better recognition of MCC tumors, the reported incidence has grown due to true increases in its known risk factors, which include solar ultraviolet (UV) exposure, immune suppression and age over 50 years. MCC arises most often on sun-exposed areas in fair-skinned individuals over age 50. It derives its name from the similarity of these cancer cells to normal Merkel cells in the skin that are thought to be associated with touch sensation

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