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J Skin Cancer. 2012;2012:176173. doi: 10.1155/2012/176173. Epub 2012 Oct 3.

Role of sentinel lymph node biopsy in the management of merkel cell carcinoma.

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  • 1Head and Neck Surgery, Department of Otolaryngology, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada M5G 2N2.


Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is a rare and typically aggressive form of skin cancer. It most commonly affects the elderly and has a predilection for the sun-exposed skin of the head and neck region. Other etiological factors include immune suppression, organ transplantation, and polyoma virus infection. MCC has a propensity to spread to regional lymphatics with a high locoregional recurrence rate. Since its discovery in 1972, treatment paradigms have shifted, with no consensus on optimal management strategies. Currently, standard of care includes surgical intervention to the primary and locoregional site with adjuvant radiotherapy for high-risk disease. In this paper, we discuss the history, pathology, and epidemiology of this rare disease with a focus on the evidentiary basis of treatment protocols. The use of sentinel lymph node biopsy as a management option will be the focus of this paper.

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