Merkel cell carcinoma is a rare skin cancer that begins in specific cells in the epidermis, called Merkel cells. Merkel cells are a kind of neuroendocrine cell because they have some characteristics of nerves and hormone-making cells. These cells assist with the sense of touch used to feel fine details on the surface of an object. Although Merkel cell carcinoma is a rare type of skin cancer, it is one of the most dangerous types. It is known to spread to other regions of the body quickly, which makes it challenging to treat. The tumors that form in Merkel cell carcinoma have the appearance of firm red, pink, or purple bumps or lumps on the skin. Most Merkel cell carcinoma tumors occur on the skin surface, but they may also develop on other regions like the esophagus or nasal passages.
History Of Skin Cancer
Cancers that originate in the skin cells occur when damage in a cell causes an error or mutation in the cell's DNA. The genes in a cell's DNA that control when the cell divides, grows, and dies are called oncogenes. Genes in a cell's DNA that control the frequency and rate of cell division and cellular death are called tumor suppressor genes or antioncogenes. A patient who has had prior occurrences of skin cancer in their life is at an increased risk of developing Merkel cell carcinoma because the DNA in their skin cells has already sustained damage or been altered before. It usually requires numerous gene changes in a cell's DNA for cancer to occur, but some of these changes are already present in individuals who have a history of skin cancer. Because fewer mutations of the cellular DNA are required to cause cancer in these individuals, they are at an increased risk of developing cancer in the Merkel cells. A history of skin cancer can also indicate an individual has a hereditary predisposing factor where they lack one or more of the normal tumor suppressor genes in their DNA.