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Is Merkel Cell Carcinoma Worse Than Melanoma?

Merkel cell carcinoma is highly aggressive and has a high rate of relapse while melanoma may completely be cured if identified at the initial stage.

Is Merkel Cell Carcinoma Worse Than Melanoma?

Based on statistical data of 5-year survival rate of both the skin cancers, Merkel cell carcinoma is more aggressive of the two and is more fatal as compared to melanoma. In the case of localized cancer, the 5-year survival rate of Merkel cell carcinoma is about 78% while that of melanoma is 98%4. The survival rate of Merkel cell carcinoma and melanoma, when cancer has spread to regional level is 51% and 64% respectively while in case of distant metastasis, the 5-year survival rate for Merkel cell carcinoma and melanoma is 17% and 23% respectively.

Is Merkel Cell Carcinoma Worse Than Melanoma?

Merkel Cell Carcinoma

Merkel cell carcinoma is cancer initiated from Merkel cells. These cells are present in the skin and perform the function as mechanoreceptors. These cells are present near the nerve ending and can sense even a low level of touch. These cells are also known as neuroendocrine cells as they also contain hormones like substance in them. The purpose of these chemicals in these cells is unknown. Merkel cell carcinoma is a highly aggressive tumor and the cells double their number in the matter of one day to a few days. Merkel cell carcinoma has a rare occurrence; however, the cases have been increased in recent years. In most cases, the causative agent is polyomavirus. Other causes include a weak immune system and prolong exposure to solar radiations. Increased age and fair color increase the risk of Merkel cell carcinoma. Merkel cell carcinoma most commonly occurs in the area exposed to the sun such as face or neck, although cases with Merkel cell carcinoma in the unexposed part are also been reported.

Symptoms Of Merkel Cell Carcinoma

Following are some of the symptoms of Merkel cell carcinoma:

Patchy Skin: Merkel cell carcinoma may appear on the skin as a patch which is hard1.

Bumps: In some cases, the disease presents itself in the form of the bump which may be blue, red or flesh-colored.

No Pain: Patients in almost all the case do not feel any pain with the patches or bumps.

Fast Spreading: Merkel cell carcinoma has the potential for rapidly spreading to the nearby lymph tissues or a distant skin.


Melanoma is one of the most life-threatening skin cancers. The disease gets initiated from melanocytes. Melanocytes are the melanin secreting cells that provides color to the skin. This is generally the disease of the skin but may also involve eye, mouth or intestine. The condition occurs because of gene mutation in the skin cells leading to abnormal growth and division of cells. When diagnosed at an early stage, there are high chances of completely curing the disease2. As there is delayed in diagnosis and treatment, it is one of the most death-causing skin diseases. Moles and brown spots occur on the skin. Although most moles and spots are harmless, people with more than 100 moles on the skin are at increased risk of cancer.

Symptoms Of Melanoma

It is very hard to differentiate normal mole with moles of melanoma. This may be the reason for delayed diagnosis which causes high deaths in spite of being a completely treatable disease. Thus, to differentiate between a normal mole and melanoma mole, the following characteristic features are worth considering3:

Asymmetry: Malignant mole is asymmetrical, unlike normal mole which is symmetrical.

Border: Border of melanoma mole is irregular.

Color: Color of melanoma mole varies.

Diameter: Size of normal moles are less as compared to melanoma moles.

Evolving: while benign mole does not evolve while melanoma mole evolves and may change their size, or color.


A 5-year survival rate comparative analysis of both the conditions indicates that Merkel cell carcinoma is worse in terms of claiming lives as compared to melanoma.


Also Read:

Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:October 12, 2021

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