Merkel Cell Carcinoma is a rare form of skin cancer that is more aggressive and faster spreading than other common forms like melanoma.
Like other forms of skin cancer, this carcinoma is linked to extensive sun exposure over time. Other risk factors include having a weakened immune system by heredity or a disorder like HIV or leukemia. It’s also commonly associated with other forms of cancer, but can appear on its own as well.
The Merkel cell carcinoma first appears as a lump that is slightly reddish nearly anywhere on the body. The lump will grow rapidly and may turn purple, but it will never be painful or even tender to the touch.
Since this type of cancer spreads so quickly, it’s essential to begin treatment at this point. Once the tumors reach maturity, lesions or wounds may form on them. There are usually no other symptoms until the cancer has spread enough to generate more general and widespread complications like pneumonia, fatigue, and vomiting.
The cause attached to Merkel cell carcinoma is sun-damaged skin. When the outside layer of the skin is damaged, it triggers a change in the Merkel cells, leading to them to become cancerous. Here, the ultraviolet rays are the primary cause of Merkel cell carcinoma.
Excessive exposure to natural sun rays or artificial light raises the risk of the disease. Extensive medical treatments involving radiation have been linked with inducing abnormal transformations in the skin cells. Weakened immune systems, contagious illnesses or viruses can all contribute to Merkel cell carcinoma.
Some families have a history of skin cancers; they may carry mutated genes increasing the risk of this condition. Health conditions could also be related to lifestyle choices or living environments. Abnormal genes can block the immune system from performing its normal defense functions, or healthy cells could break down and stop growing, allowing the mutated cells to become dominant, leading to cancer.
Patients who catch their skin cancer during stage I can expect a five-year survival rate that is over 80%, so it’s essential to have any lumps that appear on sun-exposed skin tested immediately. Even waiting a few days or weeks could make a big difference in your chances of survival after being diagnosed with Merkel cell carcinoma.
Prevention of this disorder is possible even with the greater risks related to age, gender or ethnicity. You can start with avoiding excessive exposure to ultraviolet rays (UV); always use protection, either in the form of lotions or clothing to cover up.
The best prevention is knowledge, take the time to learn about the sun’s effects on your health and educate your children on the dangers of too much sun. If you do experience severe sunburn or recognize any skin changes, see your doctor – early detection can make a difference.
If you have an impaired immune system, talk with your doctor about protection against Merkel cell carcinoma. If you are taking medicine for an autoimmune disorder, your doctor may suggest an alternative, since some medications may increase your skin’s sensitivity to UV rays, raising the risk of this disorder.