Merkel Cell Carcinoma
What is Merkel Cell Carcinoma?
Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is a form of skin cancer distinguished both by its rarity and aggressiveness. This form of cancer is most commonly identified by red colored bump on the skin. This abnormality of the skin is typically isolated (a single lump as opposed to many) and usually appears onsun-exposed skin. Merkel cell carcinoma include may also be referred to as neuroendocrine carcinoma of the skin.
What are the Symptoms of Merkel Cell Carcinoma?
The most common symptom of Merkel cell carcinoma is a lump that appearson the skin – a type of nodule or tumor. This lump is often red, flesh colored, or somewhat blue. The tumor is typically fast growing, though painless. Merkel cell carcinomas typically appear on the face, head, or neck but may appear elsewhere on the body.Other symptoms include cellular immunodeficiency, skin becoming sensitive to light, erythematous mcaule, and chronic noninfectious lymphadenopathy.
What Causes Merkel Cell Carcinoma?
The exact cause of Merkel cell carcinoma has not yet been discovered. Several risk factors have, however, been identified.People with lighter skin pigmentation, and those of advanced age are at greater risk for Merkel cell carcinoma. Increased exposure to sunlight or other sources of ultraviolet light (such as tanning beds) also increases the risk of developing Merkel cell carcinoma. Finally, people with suppressed immune systems (such as those with HIV, or those taking immunosuppresantdrugs for other conditions) are at greater risk for developing this form of skin cancer.
Researchers have also discovered a correlation between Merkel cell carcinoma and a virus called the Merkel cell polyomavirus. Tests of tumors show the virus to be present in roughly 80% of Merkel cell carcinomas. Mostadults come into contact with the Merkel cell polyomavirus by adulthood, but it appears not to cause symptoms besides the rare case of Merkel cell carcinoma.
How is Merkel Cell Carcinoma Diagnosed?
In order to diagnose Merkel cell carcinoma, physicians may exam a patient’smedical history, and perform a physical exam. Additional diagnostic steps may include a full body skin exam, and/or a skin biopsy.
What are the Treatments for Merkel Cell Carcinoma?
Treatments for Merkel cell carcinoma may require surgical removal of the tumor, or the use of Mohs surgery (in which thin layers of tissue are removed until no cancer cells are found). Radiation therapy, or chemotherapy may also be employed for the treatment of Merkel Cell Carcinoma. Currently Avelumab is the only drug therapy approved by the FDA for this condtion.