Deadliest Form of Skin Cancer Largely Unknown
Merkel cell carcinoma -- the deadliest form of skin cancer -- hasn't received much scientific scrutiny, and most people probably haven't heard of it, according to the Associated Press.
Funding is a major issue. Researchers investigating the disease have long had to rely on small pilot grants and family fund-raising.
It's only been about 15 years since Merkel cell carcinoma was recognized as distinct from melanoma. Since then, the number of diagnosed cases in the United States has tripled to about 1,500 a year. Merkel cell carcinoma is more aggressive than melanoma and requires different treatment -- intense radiation.
Last month, the first comprehensive report on Merkel cell carcinoma symptoms and risk factors was published. The disease almost exclusively develops on sun-exposed skin on Caucasians over age 50, the AP reported.
In January, University of Pittsburgh scientists announced they'd identified a possible cancer-triggering virus inside Merkel cell tumors.