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Diseases

Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

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Merkel cell carcinoma


Other Names for this Disease

  • Carcinoma, merkel cell
  • Cutaneous neuroendocrine carcinoma
  • Merkel cell cancer
  • Merkle tumors
See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.

Your Question

Can you catch this cancer from a husband that you are close to and kiss every day?

Our Answer

We have identified the following information that we hope you find helpful. If you still have questions, please contact us.

What causes Merkel cell carcinoma?

The exact underlying cause of Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is unknown, but several risk factors have been associated with the development of MCC. Having one or more risk factors does not mean that a person will develop MCC; most individuals with risk factors will not develop MCC. Risk factors include:[1][2]

    -being over 50 years of age
    -having fair skin
    -having a history of extensive sun exposure (natural or artificial)
    -having chronic immune suppression, such as after organ transplantation or having HIV

Researchers have also found that a virus called Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCPyV) is frequently involved in the development of MCC.[1] MCPyV is found in about 80% of tumor cells tested. This virus is thought to alter the DNA in such a way that influences tumor development.[1][2]

Last updated: 10/6/2014

Are individuals with Merkel cell carcinoma contagious?

Individuals with Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) are not contagious. Although in some cases cancer can be caused by infectious agents such as specific bacteria, parasites, and viruses (pathogens), cancer is generally not considered a transmissible disease.[3]

Merkel cell polyomavirus, which has been found to be present in 80% of MCC tumors, is considered to be an organism that normally inhabits the human body; asymptomatic infection with the virus is common. It is typically acquired in early childhood.[4] MCC is a rare cancer, and the overwhelming majority of individuals who are infected with the virus will never develop MCC. The virus itself is transmissible (although the mode of transmission is not well understood), but MCC cannot be passed from one individual to another.
Last updated: 6/4/2013

References
Other Names for this Disease
  • Carcinoma, merkel cell
  • Cutaneous neuroendocrine carcinoma
  • Merkel cell cancer
  • Merkle tumors
See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.