Merkel cell carcinoma

Merkel cell carcinoma, or merkel cell cancer, is a rare skin tumor that can experience rapid growth.  About 120 to 150 people are diagnosed with this cancer type every year and occurs more commonly in light-skinned people and people who are over 70 years old. Slightly more men develop this tumor than women.

Find out more about the causes and symptoms, and the most commonly used diagnostic tests and treatment types for merkel cell cancer on this page.

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Causes and symptoms merkel cell carcinoma

Merkel cell cancer usually presents as a red or reddish-purple shiny round tumor on the skin or in the mucus membranes. This tumor is usually not painful. Merkel cell cancer can appear anywhere on the skin but is usually found in the head and neck area. The tumor might spread to the lymph nodes and bloodstream and may reappear after removal.

Exposure to sunlight is probably one of the causes of these tumor types. People who are immunocompromised are at a higher risk of developing this tumor. There might be a virus involved in the development.


The following diagnostic tests may be done to confirm or rule out merkel cell carcinoma:

Treatment options

Your exact treatment options will depend on the tumor type and stage. Your overall health and shape will also affect your options. We will inform you about the process beforehand, and you will have plenty of time to ask questions. Your treatment will most likely consist of one or more of the following treatments:

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