Merkel cell carcinoma is a rare highly aggressive and often deadly skin cancer that is becoming more common. Although it only affects a few thousand yearly compared to tens of thousands with melanoma it can be deadly and is often more fatal than melanoma. Between 2000 and 2013 the number of MCC cases increased 95% compared to 57% for melanoma.It is predicted to increase from around 2500 cases in 2013 to more than 3200 in 2025.
It is more likely to affect people with a history of skin cancer, men, Caucasians and people over 50. Age is a significant factor and the aging of the US population is believed to account for the increase in MCC cases.
It is associated with a virus, the Merkel cell polyomavirus, that is quite common and often found on surfaces that are frequently touched. The virus is not associated with any other disease and the majority of people exposed do not develop MCC. However, in those with a poorly functioning immune system such as the elderly exposure may lead to MCC, It is also associated with unprotected ultraviolet exposure and because it may be cumulative continual exposure to sun light is not recommended. The American Assn of Dermatologists recommends protection from harmful sun rays include seeking shade, wearing protective clothing, and wearing a broad spectrum , water-resistant sunscreen with a SPF of 30 or higher. (NB_Please note that sunscreens are controversial so do you own research,. Also research shows that antioxidants will reduce the damage to the skin from sun shine—not part of article but my comments).
MCC is associated with a virus. the Merkel cell polyomavirus and is also associated with unprotected exposure to ultraviolet light that is a risk factor for all types of skin cancer. It is believed to be a result of cumulative exposure so protection is important. It is a highly aggressive , grows quickly and metastasizes so it is important to detect it early. It also does not appear as a dark mole like melanoma but instead as a firm lump that is red, purple or skin colored. They typically are not tender.