AHF Convenes a Consensus on Merkel Cell Carcinoma in Latin America

Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is a rare yet highly aggressive form of skin cancer which, in approximately 80% of cases, is caused by the Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCV). While the dangers of other skin cancers like malignant melanoma are ingrained in most physicians’ minds, MCC remains an unfamiliar and neglected disease. Although MCC is 40 times rarer than melanoma (an estimated 0.24 cases per 100,000 persons in the U.S.), it kills about one in three patients compared with one in nine for melanoma.  Moreover, the annual incidence of MCC is rising more quickly than that of melanoma, at 8% annually, and one-third of patients die within 3 years of diagnosis.  Despite these sobering figures, a timely diagnosis followed by excision and radiotherapy can be curative in early disease. As a result, efforts to increase physician education and awareness of MCC, particularly among family physicians, is of the utmost importance for early diagnosis and successful treatment. 

In November 2017, the Americas Health Foundation (AHF) convened a meeting of six Latin American experts to review MCC in the Region, including oncologists, dermato-oncologists and pathologists, to validate available data on the burden of illness and develop recommendations for increasing the early diagnosis, treatment, quality of life and optimal management of MCC in the Region. The resulting article, “Burden of Disease, Early Diagnosis and Treatment of Merkel Cell Carcinoma in Latin America,” is currently under review for publication.