Merkel cell carcinoma is a rare type of skin cancer that usually appears as a single, painless, lump on sun-exposed skin and it is typically red or violet in color. It usually appears as a flesh-colored or bluish-red nodule, often on your face, head or neck. It is considered fast-growing and can spread quickly to surrounding tissues, nearby lymph nodes, or more distant parts of the body. Merkel cell polyomavirus has been detected in about 80% of the tumors tested. It is thought that this virus can cause somatic mutations leading to MCC when the immune system is weakened. Other risk factors for developing MCC include ultraviolet radiation and being over 50 years of age. Treatment should begin early and depends on the location and size of the cancer, and the extent to which it has spread.
Dr. Howard Kaufman, MD, surgeon at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, discusses research on Merkel cell carcinoma.