What Are The Ways To Prevent Merkel Cell Carcinoma & Does It Reoccur?

Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) also known as neuroendocrine carcinoma is a rare type of skin cancer that commonly occurs in the head, face or neck but can occur anywhere in the body. The main cause or the risk factors are chronic sun exposure and a weakened immune system. It’s a fast-growing, painless tumor that usually seen as a nodule on the skin, it can be either skin color or can be red, blue or purple in color.

What Are The Ways To Prevent Merkel Cell Carcinoma?

What Are The Ways To Prevent Merkel Cell Carcinoma?

There are some risk factors for Merkel cell carcinoma, avoiding those risk factors can prevent Merkel cell carcinoma to a certain extent.

Limit Ultraviolet (UV) Ray Exposure: The main risk factor for the development of Merkel cell carcinoma is UV ray exposure. So, it is important you avoid it as much as possible.

  • Avoid unnecessary traveling in the sun. Avoid sun exposure from 10 am to 4 pm as much as possible. Especially, if you had Merkel cell carcinoma before or you have someone in the family with Merkel cell carcinoma.
  • If you really have to go out in the sun then protect your skin from UV rays. Wear well-covered clothes, put on a hat, wear sunglasses to protect your eyes and apply proper sunscreen before you leave.
  • Do not use artificial sunlight lamps or tanning beds. Some people believe that tanning beds and artificial lamps are safe but it is not true. Long term exposure to these can increase the risk of Merkel cell carcinoma.
  • Children need to be protected more as they can be exposed to the sun during extracurricular activities and sports. Their skin is more sensitive and can burn easily. Children need to be educated about the side effects of chronic long-term exposure to the sun and educate them on how to protect their skin when they go out.
  • Maintain A Strong Immune System: A weakened immune system is a risk factor for Merkel cell carcinoma and other skin cancers. Therefore, it is important you have a strong immune system by having a healthy diet rich in antioxidants, do regular exercises and be happy and stress-free. There can be instances where you have to make weaken your immune system e.g. organ transplant, a disease that needs regular steroids as medication. These are often unavoidable but HIV can be prevented by avoiding unprotected sex and IV drug use.

Regular Skin Checkups: This especially important if you had previous Merkel cell carcinoma or any other skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma). Make sure you have regular checkups and tests done through a dermatologist to prevent further cancer. Every month you can examine your skin to diagnoses any suspicious lesions. (1) (2) (4)

Does Merkel Cell Carcinoma Recur?

Merkel cell carcinoma has a poor prognosis the local recurrence rate is about 44% and multiple local recurrences can occur in 15% of patients. Most of these recurrences occur within 5 months to 1 year after primary treatment. The recurrence depends on the stage of the disease, stage III and IV have a higher recurrence rate even after treatment. Therefore, frequent blood tests and scans are important during the first few years after treatment to diagnose a recurrence early. (3) (5)

Does Merkel Cell Carcinoma Recur?

Conclusion

The risk factors for Merkel cell carcinoma are long-term sun exposure and a weakened immune system. Prevention involves limiting sunlight exposure, applying sunscreen and covering your face and body properly before going out and avoiding artificial sun lamps and tanning beds. Make your immune system strong by having a balanced diet, doing regular exercises and avoiding risky behaviors that can transmit HIV. The recurrence rate is quite high with Merkel cell carcinoma, in fact, the local recurrence rate is about 44% and multiple recurrence rate is about 15%. Most of the recurrences occur within the 1st year after primary treatment. Therefore, frequent blood tests and scans are needed for early diagnosis.

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