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Lesser known skin cancer is more deadly than melanoma

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A population based study of the aggressive skin cancer, Merkel Cell Carcinoma (MCC) in Western Australia has revealed that the survival rate is worse for patients with MCC than with melanoma, which is commonly thought to be the most lethal form of skin cancer.

Scientists at the Western Australian Institute for Medical Research (WAIMR) used data from the WA Cancer Registry to determine the demographics and trends of incidence and survival among MCC cases.

“The incidence of Merkel Cell Carcinoma in Western Australia is the highest reported in world literature.” said Professor Lin Fritschi, who is head of the Epidemiology Group. “There is evidence that MCC, like other skin cancers, may be caused by sun exposure. It is most commonly found on sun exposed areas like the face, and the scalp for men. And the risk of developing MCC increases with age.”

MCC is an uncommon but aggressive form of skin cancer which presents as a pink lump on the skin. It has not previously been extensively investigated in Australia, even though Australia has the highest incidence of sun-related cancers in the world.

“Even if patients are treated by removing the tumour, MCC’s are prone to recurrence,” said Professor Fritschi, “Five year survival from melanoma is now 90%, whereas five year survival for MCC cases in the study was only 64%.”

“It seems to be a difficult skin cancer to treat and perhaps patients aren’t diagnosed as quickly as they are with melanoma, which is better known and has a more obvious appearance.”

(Source: Western Australian Institute for Medical Research (WAIMR): British Journal of Dermatology)

More information

Skin cancer
For more information on skin cancer including common types of skin cancers, and its treatment and preventative measures, as well as some useful videos, see Skin Cancer.
 

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Dates

Posted On: 21 July, 2011
Modified On: 15 January, 2014

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