Neuroendocrine (Merkel cell) carcinoma of the skin. Its natural history, diagnosis, and treatment

C L Hitchcock, K I Bland, R G Laney, D Franzini, B Harris, E M Copeland
Annals of Surgery 1988, 207 (2): 201-7
Over 400 cases of neuroendocrine (Merkel cell) carcinoma of the skin (NCS) have been reported. This tumor continues to pose problems in diagnosis and effective treatment for physicians unfamiliar with its biological characteristics. Reported here are five additional cases of NCS and the literature for this rare neoplasm is comprehensively reviewed. An early and accurate diagnosis is made possible by combining clinical presentation with results of histologic study, immunoperoxidase staining for neuron-specific enolase (NSE), epithelial membrane antigen (EMA), cytokeratins, and electron microscopy. NCS is an aggressive tumor. Depending on the length of follow-up, up to 40% of tumors locally recur, 55% develop regional nodal metastases, and 36% undergo distant metastasis. Survival is sex, but not age, dependent, with an overall 2-year survival rate of 72% (males 58% vs. females 79%). No standard procedure for initial and/or follow-up treatment for NCS exists. The authors recommend that NCS be treated, whenever possible, using the same rationale as applied for the treatment of squamous cell carcinoma of the skin.

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