Self-management

Prevention

While exposure to sunlight isn't proved to cause Merkel cell carcinoma, it is considered a risk factor for this cancer. Reducing your sun exposure may reduce your risk of skin cancer. Try to:

  • Avoid the sun during peak hours. Avoid sun exposure as much as possible during the strongest sunlight hours of the day — typically from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Move your outdoor activities to a time earlier in the morning or later in the day.
  • Shield your skin and eyes. Wear a wide-brimmed hat, tightly woven clothing and sunglasses with ultraviolet light (UV) protection.
  • Apply sunscreen liberally and often. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. Apply sunscreen generously, and reapply every two hours — or more often if you're swimming or perspiring.
  • Watch for changes. If you notice a mole, freckle or bump that's changing in size, shape or color, talk to your doctor. Most skin nodules never become cancer, but catching cancer in its early stages increases the chances that treatment will be successful.
References
  1. Niederhuber JE, et al., eds. Nonmelanoma skin cancers. In: Abeloff's Clinical Oncology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier; 2014. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Aug. 5, 2015.
  2. Merkel cell carcinoma. Fort Washington, Pa.: National Comprehensive Cancer Network. http://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/f_guidelines.asp. Accessed Aug. 5, 2015.
  3. Merkel cell carcinoma treatment (PDQ). National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/types/skin/patient/merkel-cell-treatment-pdq#section/all. Accessed Sept. 3, 2015.
  4. Prevent skin cancer. American Academy of Dermatology. http://www.aad.org/spot-skin-cancer/learn-about-skin-cancer/prevent-skin-cancer. Accessed Sept. 3, 2015.
  5. Tai, P. Pathogenesis, clinical features, and diagnosis of Merkel cell (neuroendocrine) carcinoma. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Sept. 5, 2015.
  6. Church CD, et al. How does the Merkel polyomavirus lead to a lethal cancer? Many answers, many questions and a new mouse model. Journal of Investigative Dermatology. 2015;135:1222.