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Poorer Survival Outcomes Seen for Head and Neck Merkel Cell Carcinoma

Risk for death significantly increased for head and neck MCC compared with other body regions

By Dermsquared Editorial Team | May 15, 2024

WEDNESDAY, May 15, 2024 -- Patients with head and neck (hn) Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) have poorer survival outcomes than patients with MCC affecting other body regions (oMCC), according to a research letter published online May 13 in SKIN.

Marcus L. Elias, M.D., from the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell in New Hyde Park, New York, and colleagues evaluated overall survival (OS) in a retrospective cohort study of patients with cutaneous stage I to IV MCC between 2004 and 2017.

A total of 4,808 hnMCC and 5,790 oMCC cases were analyzed. In a univariate analysis, the researchers found significant differences in OS for oMCC and hnMCC (one-year OS: 86.9 versus 82.7 percent; five-year OS: 47.3 versus 38.7 percent). A significantly increased risk for death was seen for hnMCC versus oMCC on Cox regression analysis (hazard ratio, 1.09). Scalp and neck MCC showed lower OS versus MCC in other head regions MCC (one-year OS: 76.6 versus 84.4 percent; five-year OS: 29.6 versus 41.3 percent). An independent association was seen for scalp and neck MCC primary site versus MCC in other head regions with an increased risk for death (hazard ratio, 1.297).

"As one of the largest studies of MCC patients, our results provide evidence that tumor location is a vital factor for prognostic indication when evaluating patients," the authors write. "Our results may be utilized by patients and physicians to assess risk and prognosis, which also influences treatment modality decision-making."


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