From Merkel Cells To Cancer : Understanding The Basics Of Merkel Cell Carcinoma

From Merkel Cells To Cancer : Understanding The Basics Of Merkel Cell Carcinoma

Skin cancer Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC), which develops from Merkel cells, is uncommon and severe. The skin has specialized cells called Merkel cells that are in charge of touch perception. MCC often manifests as a...

Skin cancer Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC), which develops from Merkel cells, is uncommon and severe. The skin has specialized cells called Merkel cells that are in charge of touch perception.

MCC often manifests as a smooth, glossy protrusion on the skin that is painless and commonly occurs on exposed regions of the body including the head, neck, and arms. It can also show up as a flesh-colored nodule, a red or purple patch, or both.

MCC is categorized as a neuroendocrine tumor, meaning it has cells with characteristics of both nerve cells and cells that produce hormones. Since it might be confused with other skin disorders, MCC can be challenging to diagnose.

It was given that name in honor of Friedrich Merkel, a German anatomist who first identified the Merkel cell, the kind of cell that gives birth to cancer.

 Although the specific etiology of the disease is unknown, genetic and environmental variables, including exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or tanning beds, are thought to have a role in its development.

Radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and/or surgery to remove the tumor are frequently used in the treatment of MCC. MCC has a dismal prognosis, particularly if it has spread to other body areas, although early discovery and treatment can improve results.

This article will shed light on the causes, symptoms, and treatment of Merkel cell carcinoma in detail.

UV radiation and fair skin: exploring the prevalence of Merkel cell carcinoma

Merkel cell carcinoma is a very uncommon kind of skin cancer (MCC). 2,500 new instances of MCC are believed to be detected in the US each year, according to the American Cancer Society.

With a median age of diagnosis of roughly 70, MCC is more frequently diagnosed in older persons. Also, persons with fair skin and those who have spent a lot of time in the sun or tanning booths are more likely to experience it.

MCC is also more likely to occur in people whose immune systems are compromised, such as those who have HIV or have had organ transplants.

The incidence of MCC varies by geographical location, however, it tends to be greater in areas exposed to more UV light. Although MCC is currently regarded as uncommon cancer, its prevalence has been rising over time, emphasizing the need for ongoing study and awareness.

Navigating through causes of Merkel cell carcinoma -

Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is thought to occur from a confluence of genetic alterations and environmental influences, while its precise etiology is yet unknown.

UV radiation:

One of the primary environmental variables that might raise the risk of MCC is exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun or tanning salons.

Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCV):

The virus known as the Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCV) has been discovered in almost 80% of MCC cancers. It is thought that the virus can bind to Merkel cells' DNA and produce genetic changes that give rise to malignant cells.

Immune suppression:

Those who have a weaker immune system, such as those with HIV or organ transplant recipients, or who take immunosuppressive drugs, are more likely to acquire MCC.

Age and gender:

Men and older persons are more likely than women to develop MCC.

Fair skin:

Compared to people with a darker complexion, those with light skin who have a history of UV exposure are more likely to acquire MCC.

Genetic mutations:

Several genetic mutations have been linked to a higher risk of MCC development. For instance, certain MCC cancers have been shown to harbor mutations in the tumor suppressor gene TP53.

Ionizing radiation:

Radiation exposure has been related to a higher chance of getting MCC, whether from radiation therapy for other forms of cancer or medical imaging examinations like CT scans.

Exposure at work:

MCC risk may be raised by some activities, such as those requiring chemical exposure or outdoor employment.

Even though these characteristics have been associated with a higher risk of MCC, not everyone who has the disease does, and some people with several risk factors may never get the disease. Research is currently ongoing to determine precisely how genetic and environmental variables interact to cause MCC.

Don't ignore the signs: staying vigilant against Merkel cell carcinoma.

The skin lesion known as Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is frequently a painless, firm, glossy, or flesh-colored lump.

The bulge might also be red or blue, and it could seem like a cyst or a mole. While MCC may develop anywhere on the body, it usually does so on areas of exposed skin, such as the head, neck, and arms.

Additional MCC warning signs and symptoms may include:

Fast expansion:

MCC tumors have the potential to expand swiftly and may double in size in only a few weeks.


If the skin surrounding the tumor deteriorates, an ulcer may form that may not heal.


In the afflicted location, the tumor may lead to edema.


When they spread and infect neighboring tissues, MCC tumors can be uncomfortable.


The tumor may be uncomfortable when bumped or scraped, or it may be sensitive to touch.

Increased size of neighboring lymph nodes: MCC may spread and increase the size of nearby lymph nodes.


When MCC develops, it may result in an overall sense of weakness and exhaustion.

Weight loss

In more severe MCC instances, weight loss might happen.

Breathing problems

If MCC spreads to the lungs, it may result in shortness of breath or breathing problems.

It's crucial to remember that while these symptoms might not be present in early-stage MCC, they might be suggestive of more advanced stages of the disease. Regular skin inspections with a healthcare expert are crucial, especially if you have skin cancer risk factors. It's crucial to get medical help as soon as you can if you discover any strange growths or abnormalities on your skin.

Early detection is key: Understanding the diagnostic tests for Merkel cell carcinoma.

Imaging, clinical, and laboratory testing are frequently used to diagnose Merkel cell cancer (MCC).

IHC Test         

To identify proteins or markers that are associated with MCC

Dermoscopy   To examine the skin in more detail


To determine if MCC has spread to nearby lymph nodes or organs


Complete blood count (CBC)

To assess the number of white and red blood cells and platelets in the blood

Liver function Tests

To assess the function of the liver, which may be affected if MCC has spread to the liver

Kidney function Tests

To assess the function of the kidneys, which may be affected if MCC has spread to the kidneys


Because of its rarity and aggressiveness, MCC can be difficult to diagnose. Hence, if you see any unexpected growths or changes in your skin, it's crucial to consult a healthcare provider.


Comprehensive treatment options to Win the Battle against Merkel cell carcinoma

Radiation therapy and surgery are frequently used in conjunction to treat Merkel cell cancer (MCC). Chemotherapy or immunotherapy may also be applied in some circumstances. Depending on the cancer's stage, the tumor's size and location, as well as the precise treatment strategy, will be chosen.


The most frequent form of therapy for MCC is surgery. To guarantee that all cancer cells are eliminated, surgery aims to remove the tumor and surrounding tissue.

A broad excision, which involves removing a significant portion of the surrounding tissue, may be used in certain circumstances.

In some circumstances, a Mohs micrographic surgery may be carried out, which entails cutting the tumor into stages and inspecting each step under a microscope to make sure all cancer cells have been eliminated.

Radiation therapy

High-energy radiation beams are used in radiation treatment to eliminate cancer cells. A machine that shoots radiation beams at the tumor can provide the radiation externally, or it can administer the radiation inside by placing radioactive material close to the tumor.


In some circumstances, chemotherapy may be used to treat MCC, particularly if the disease has progressed to other body organs.

Chemotherapy uses medications to destroy cancer cells. The medications are often administered in cycles over a few weeks, either orally or intravenously.


A more recent method of treating MCC, immunotherapy includes administering medications that prompt the immune system to target cancer cells. Checkpoint inhibitors, which disable proteins that stop the immune system from attacking cancer cells, are one type of immunotherapy medication used for MCC.

Other medications

Some medications that may be used to treat MCC include targeted therapy medications that target certain proteins as well as interferon, a kind of protein that aids the immune system in fighting cancer.

Overall, MCC therapy can be difficult and may need a variety of methods. To choose the best course of therapy for their unique requirements, patients should consult carefully with their healthcare team.

Be strong, be brave, and fight Merkel cell carcinoma