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Is Merkel Cell Cancer Hereditary & Is Carcinoma Worse Than Melanoma?

Merkel cell cancer or MCC is an aggressive but rare type of skin cancer, which mainly develops in the form of a painless and single bump on the skin often exposed to the sun. The bump, in this case, maybe of red-violet or skin color and grows rapidly within a period of few weeks to months. Even cancer spreads quickly to surrounding lymph nodes and tissues, along with large numbers of distant body parts. A history related to extensive exposure to the sun, chronic immune suppression, fair skin, age and polyomavirus associated with Merkel cells is prime factors related to the development of Merkel cell cancer. (1)

Is Merkel Cell Cancer Hereditary?

To find whether Merkel cell cancer is hereditary or not, we have to analyze the prime cause of the problem and its inheritance in detail.

Is Merkel Cell Cancer Hereditary & Is Carcinoma Worse Than Melanoma?

Cancer in people often takes place because of changes or mutations in his/her DNA within the cells. These mutations result in the growth and division of cells to form new cells. However, mutations in the case of Merkel cell cancer are not inherited ones. Instead, they take place by chance during the lifetime of a person i.e. somatic mutations. In most of the cases, doctors fail to identify the exact reason behind the mutations to cause Merkel cell cancer. However, risks related to mutations increase because of many factors, including the exposure of an individual to the light of the sun. Along with this, mutations associated with Merkel Cell Carcinoma take place because of a few additional risk factors, such as-

  • When individuals exceed 50 years age
  • Individuals with fair skin
  • People with a history of extensive exposure to the sunlight
  • People suffered from chronic immune suppression i.e. HIV or organ transplantation

Inheritance Of Merkel Cell Cancer/Carcinoma

Merkel Cell Cancer never runs in family members. Even though a few of the Merkel cell tumors cells have DNA changes i.e. mutations, such mutations are not inherited from the parents of the suffered person. Rather doctors define such mutations as somatic ones, which take place during the lifetime of an individual in the form of various random events. (1)

Merkel Cell Carcinoma Vs Melanoma- Which Is Worse?

Both Merkel Cell Carcinoma and Melanoma are aggressive types of skin cancers or malignancies related to immunosuppression as well as exposure to ultraviolet light of the sun. Both of these tumors require a more or less similar type of surgical treatment. However, MCC is a comparatively rare form of tumor, in which medical researchers have less information about its prognosis and specific clinical behavior. Along with this, MCC takes place in old age people and often on neck and head, while it is higher in men. However, the positive thing is that MCC is relatively less dangerous as compared to Melanoma, as melanoma tops the list consisting of aggressive and fatal skin cancer. (2)


  1. https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/diseases/9266/merkel-cell-carcinoma
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3161663/

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:October 19, 2021

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