Merkel cell carcinoma

                two people with Merkel cell carcinoma Merkel cell carcinoma: This rare skin cancer can appear on the skin as a hard patch (1) or firm bump (2).

What is Merkel cell carcinoma?

Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is a rare skin cancer. It is also an aggressive skin cancer. MCC is considered aggressive because it can:

  • Grow quickly and spread.
  • Return after treatment.
Because MCC is aggressive, doctors recommend prompt treatment. The sooner this skin cancer is treated the better the outcome.Cases of Merkel cell carcinoma have tripled in the past 20 years.To improve a patient’s outcome, a team of doctors usually creates the treatment plan for MCC. This approach allows the patient to benefit from the expertise of specialists in different areas of medicine. The team often includes a dermatologist, a medical oncologist (cancer specialist), and a radiation oncologist (specialist in treating cancer with radiation.) Other doctors may also be a part of this team.

It is important for patients diagnosed with MCC to:

  • Keep all appointments with their doctors.
  • Check their skin and lymph nodes for signs of cancer as recommended.

These actions help find cancer as early as possible.

To get a better understanding of what to look for on the skin, some patients find it helpful to look at pictures of MCC. You’ll find more pictures of this skin cancer at Merkel cell carcinoma: Signs and symptoms.

Learn more about Merkel cell carcinoma:

Images used with permission of Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology: J Am Acad Dermatol. 2012; 66:923-7


Harting MS, Ludgate MW, Fullen DR et al. “Dermatoscopic vascular patterns in cutaneous Merkel cell carcinoma,” J Am Acad Dermatol 2012; 66(6): pages 923-7.

Heath M, Jaimes N, Lemos BD et al. “Clinical characteristics of Merkel cell carcinoma at diagnosis in 195 patients: the AEIOU features.” J Am Acad Dermatol 2008; 58:375-81.

Lemos BD, Storer BE, Iyer JG et al. “Pathologic nodal evaluation improves prognostic accuracy in Merkel cell carcinoma: analysis of 5823 cases as the basis of the first consensus staging system.” J Am Acad Dermatol 2010; 63:751-61.

Nghiem P, Jaimes N. “Merkel Cell Carcinoma.” In: Wolff K, Goldsmith LA, Katz SI, et al. editors. Fitzpatrick’s Dermatology in General Medicine, 7th ed. United States of America, McGraw Hill Medical; 2008. p. 1087-94.