Merkel Cell Carcinoma: Current United States Incidence and Projected Increases based on Changing Demographics

November 1, 2017


Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology

Publication Date

November 1, 2017


Paulson KG, Park SY, Vandeven NA, Lachance K, Thomas H, Chapuis AG, Harms KL, Thompson JA, Bhatia S, Stang A, Nghiem P

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Background: Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) incidence rates are rising and strongly age-associated, relevant for an aging population.

Objective: Determine MCC incidence in the United States and project incident cases through the year 2025.

Methods: Registry data were obtained from the SEER-18 database, containing 6,600 MCC cases. Age and sex-adjusted projections were generated utilizing US census data.

Results: Between 2000-2013, there was a 95% increase in the number of reported MCC cases, compared to 57% for melanoma and 15% for all ‘solid’ cancers. In 2013, the MCC incidence rate was 0.7 per 100,000 person-years in the US, corresponding to 2,488 cases. MCC incidence increased exponentially with age, from 0.1 to 1.0 to 9.8 (per 100,000 person-years) between age groups 40-44, 60-64, 85+ years, respectively. Due to aging of the “baby-boom” generation, US MCC incidence is predicted to climb to 2,835 cases in 2020 and 3,284 cases in 2025.

Limitations: Projections assume the age-adjusted incidence rate stabilizes and thus may be underestimates.

Conclusions: An aging population is driving brisk increases in the number of new MCC cases in the US. This growing impact combined with a rapidly evolving therapeutic landscape warrants expanded awareness of MCC diagnosis and management.

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