Cell Carcinoma: What it Looks Like
Merkel cell carcinoma is a rare type of
skin cancer that tends to be very aggressive. About 1,500 cases of
this skin cancer are diagnosed in the United States each year.
Where Occurs | Diagnosed Cases of Merkel Cell Carcinoma
MCC can appear anywhere on the skin. A common site is the eyelid as
shown in photo A. About 50% of MCCs develop on the head or neck.
Photo B shows that MCC can develop elsewhere, such as on the
buttock. Like other types of skin cancer, MCC is more common on skin
that has received years of sun exposure such as the back of the hand
(photo C) or the arm (photo D).
All photographs previously published in the Journal of the
American Academy of Dermatology, 2008
Heath M, Jaimes N, Lemos B et al. “Clinical characteristics of
Merkel cell carcinoma at diagnosis in 195 patients: the AEIOU
features.” Copyright Elsevier (2008).
Photos A, B, and C
used with permission of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.
Photograph courtesy of www.merkelcell.co.uk,
used with permission.
While MCC is most common on skin that receives years of sun
exposure, it can develop anywhere on the skin, inside the mouth, or
on the genitals. Signs that a growth may be MCC and should be
examined by a dermatologist are:
Painless, firm, raised lump or
patch on the skin
Red, pink, blue, or violet-colored
Surface often shiny and may have
May resemble a pimple, bug bite,
cyst, or stye
Appears most commonly in a person
who is 50 years of age or older and has fair skin that has
received years of sun exposure
Develops anywhere on the skin.
About 50% of MCCs appear on the head or neck. The eyelid is a
When to See a Dermatologist
A dermatologist should examine any lesion that is changing or
growing rapidly. These are common signs of skin cancer. Early
diagnosis and treatment offer the best prognosis for MCC and other
types of skin cancer.
What is Merkel Cell
Explains who is most at risk and the AEIOUs for detecting MCC
Brewer JD, Appert DL, Rognigk RK. “Merkel Cell Carcinoma.” In: Nouri
K, “Skin Cancer.”China. McGraw Hill Medical; 2008. p. 181-94.
Heath M, Jaimes N, Lemos B et al. “Clinical characteristics
of Merkel cell carcinoma at diagnosis in 195 patients: the AEIOU
features.” J Am Acad Dermatol 2008; 58:375-81.
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.
content solely developed by the American Academy of Dermatology
Merkel cell carcinoma often
looks harmless — like a cyst, pimple, or stye. It may
even be mistaken for a bug bite.