Merkel cell skin cancer
Merkel cell skin cancer

What Exactly Is Merkel Cell Skin Cancer? Uncovering the Uncommon Condition’s Telltale Signs and Symptoms

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Merkel cell skin cancer : Cancer Research UK has issued a recent warning predicting a 50% increase in skin cancer cases by the year 2040.

On Friday, September 1st, Jimmy Buffett passed away at the age of 76 while under hospice care. His death followed a private battle with skin cancer that spanned several years.

An official statement posted on his website revealed that the renowned singer, most famous for his hit song “Margaritaville,” had been contending with Merkel cell skin cancer for four years.

Cancer Research UK’s recent cautionary message highlighted the forthcoming surge in skin cancer diagnoses, attributed to the booming popularity of “cheap package holidays” in the 1960s. Skin cancer currently stands as the most prevalent form of cancer in the United Kingdom, claiming approximately 2,100 lives each year. It remains one of the most widespread cancer types globally.

What is Merkel Cell Skin Cancer?

Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is an uncommon form of skin cancer originating in the Merkel cells, typically located in the skin’s upper layer. These cells are found near nerve endings and play a role in our ability to sense touch.

Cancer Research UK characterizes MCC as an exceptionally rare skin cancer variant, with only 1,500 documented cases in England between 1999 and 2008.

Causes of Merkel Cell Carcinoma

For many types of skin cancer, prolonged exposure to sunlight increases the risk of MCC. Other factors that can elevate the risk include exposure to ultraviolet light, having a condition that weakens the immune system, or harboring the Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCPyV).

Symptoms of MCC

MCC typically manifests as skin lumps, often appearing in a blue or red hue and measuring less than 2 cm in diameter, although larger lumps are possible. These lumps generally have firm skin covering and do not induce pain.

Commonly, these lumps are found in sun-exposed areas of the body like the head, neck, arms, or legs. Unlike most common skin cancers, MCC can progress rapidly over weeks or months and may metastasize to other body parts such as the lungs, lymph nodes, liver, or bones.

The NHS advises individuals to consult their GP if they have concerns or doubts regarding any skin changes.

Preventing Skin Cancer

While skin cancer is not entirely preventable, you can reduce your risk by avoiding excessive exposure to UV light. Protect yourself from sunburn by using high SPF sunscreen, covering your skin when in the sun, and limiting sun exposure during peak daytime heat. Additionally, it is advisable to avoid tanning beds and sunlamps.

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