Every person is unique — and that means your skin cancer treatment should be one of a kind. At Baptist Health Miami Cancer Institute, you’ll receive a personalized care plan from our experts.

We screen to catch skin cancer early, when treatment is most effective. By giving you a precise diagnosis, we tailor your custom treatment plan to your specific type of cancer.

What is Merkel cell carcinoma?

Merkel cell carcinoma, also called neuroendocrine carcinoma of the skin or trabecular cancer, is a rare type of skin cancer. About 2,500 cases are diagnosed each year.

Medical illustration of merkel cell anatomy.

The disease occurs when cancer cells form within the Merkel cells, which are located in the deepest part of the epidermis (the skin’s upper layer).

This type of skin cancer can look like a single, painless bump on sun-exposed skin like on the head, neck, arms, legs and midsection. These spots can be pink, red or purple.

Once formed, Merkel cell carcinoma may spread quickly within a few weeks or months, usually targeting the lymph nodes first. From there, it can spread to other areas on the skin or even other parts of the body, like the lungs, bones, brain or other organs.

According to the American Cancer Society, the five-year survival rate for Merkel cell carcinoma that hasn’t spread is 75 percent. If the cancer spreads to surrounding tissue, the five-year survival rate is 61 percent.

Our Merkel Cell Carcinoma Specialists

Meet the skin cancer specialists at the Multidisciplinary Skin Cancer Clinic at Miami Cancer Institute. We combine world-recognized medical expertise, innovation and compassionate care to detect and treat your specific cancer.

You’ll get a personalized treatment plan based on groundbreaking discoveries and collaborations with other world-renowned cancer researchers.

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Risk Factors for Merkel Cell Carcinoma

A risk factor is anything that increases your chance of developing a disease. However, having a risk factor doesn’t necessarily mean you will get cancer. It’s important to know your personal risk factors and discuss any concerns with your doctor.

Risk factors include:

  • Having long-term exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun or tanning beds
  • Having other diseases (like leukemia, HIV) or taking drugs that slow down your immune system (such as those prescribed after a transplant)
  • Being male
  • Being older than 50 years of age
  • Being white

There are also risk factors for people with darker skin tones, including people of Hispanic and African American descent.

Preventing Merkel Cell Carcinoma

You can prevent or reduce your risk for basal cell carcinoma by:

  • Using sunscreen year-round. Use SPF 30 or higher, with both UVA and UVB protection, regardless of your skin color.
  • Avoiding sun exposure midday, when the sun’s rays are strongest (usually between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.).
  • Wearing protective clothing that covers your neck, head and eyes.
  • Avoiding indoor tanning.
  • Taking careful precautions to limit occupational exposure to toxic substances.
  • Conducting monthly head-to-toe skin examinations.

Our experts also recommend knowing and understanding your personal risk factors. That way you can take steps to prevent or reduce your risk for Merkel cell carcinoma.

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Clinical Trials

Clinical Trials

Our cancer specialists at Baptist Health Miami Cancer Institute expertly combine the best of clinical research with the best of patient care to deliver your best outcomes.

"There’s a lot of excitement about new options to treat neuroendocrine tumors like Merkel cell carcinoma."

Have questions?

We're here to help answer any questions you or your family may have.

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