Merkel cell cancer classification

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1] Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Vamsikrishna Gunnam M.B.B.S [2]


Merkel cell carcinoma is classified into 3 subgroups: trabecular, intermediate, and small cell.


Histologically, MCC has been classified into three distinct subtypes:[1][2][3]

Subtype Pattern Histology studies
Trabecular type Classic pattern
Intermediate type Solid pattern
  • Most common subtype
  • Compactly arranged cells
  • Cytoplasm is less abundant in the cells
  • Mitotic figures are positive
  • Necrosis is positive
  • Intermediate type may invade the epidermis
  • More aggressive subtype when compared to the trabecular type
Small cell type Diffuse pattern
  • Few high density granules
  • Arises in the dermis
  • Sheets of solid and clusters of cells
  • Mimics other small cell tumours


  1. Koljonen V (February 2006). "Merkel cell carcinoma". World J Surg Oncol. 4: 7. doi:10.1186/1477-7819-4-7. PMC 1382229. PMID 16466578.
  2. Suster S, Ronnen M, Lin E, Shewach-Millet M (June 1986). "Trabecular carcinoma of the skin simulating metastatic disease". J Surg Oncol. 32 (2): 73–5. PMID 3724197.
  3. Johansson L, Tennvall J, Akerman M (August 1990). "Immunohistochemical examination of 25 cases of Merkel cell carcinoma: a comparison with small cell carcinoma of the lung and oesophagus, and a review of the literature". APMIS. 98 (8): 741–52. PMID 1698390.