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Symptoms and Signs of Skin Cancer: Merkel Cell Carcinoma

Doctor's Notes on Skin Cancer: Merkel Cell Carcinoma

Merkel cell carcinoma (also termed neuroendocrine carcinoma of the skin or trabecular cancer) is a very rare disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form from Merkel cells in the skin. Signs and symptoms of Merkel cell carcinoma are that it starts as a single fast-growing lump on sun-exposed skin. The cancer is painless, firm, dome shaped or raised and red or violet in color. It tends to grow fast and spread. It can go through stages (I to IV) and metastasize to distant organs.

The cause of Merkel carcinoma is unknown. However, risk factors for the disease include a lot of sunlight exposure to skin, the use of tanning beds, immunocompromised by infection (HIV) and/or drugs and medications, having a prior history of cancer, being older than 50, male and/or white.

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 10/14/2019


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.