Jimmy Buffett passed away on Friday after a four-year battle with… Merkel cell melanoma.
The musician continued to perform while undergoing treatment for skin cancer, and Buffet’s latest show was a 45-minute surprise appearance on Mac McAnally’s July 2 show in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, where he brought the audience to its feet screaming as he walked out. In 2022, his struggles with a then-undisclosed health issue became apparent when he was hospitalized and forced to cancel several shows.
According to a statement announcing his death, the 76-year-old “passed away peacefully” at his home in Sag Harbor on Long Island, New York. He was “surrounded by his family, his friends, his music and his dogs”.
So, what exactly is Merkel cell skin cancer? What causes it and who is most at risk? Here’s what you need to know about the rare skin condition.
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What is Merkel cell cutaneous carcinoma?
According to the National Cancer InstituteMerkel cell skin cancer is a rare cancer in which malignant, or precancerous, cells form in the skin. “Merkel cells are found in the top layer of the skin,” says the institute. “These cells are very close to the nerve endings that receive the sense of touch.”
Merkel cell carcinoma, also called neuroendocrine carcinoma of the skin or trabecular carcinoma, forms when Merkel cells grow out of control. It begins most often in areas where the skin is compromised, especially the head and neck, as well as the arms, legs, and trunk.
Merkel cell carcinoma tends to spread at an early stage, spreading “first to nearby lymph nodes and then may spread to lymph nodes, skin in distant parts of the body, lungs, brain, bones or other organs,” according to the National Cancer Institute. .
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Who is at risk of developing Merkel cell skin cancer?
The National Cancer Institute says risk factors for Merkel cell carcinoma include those over 50, whether they’re male or white. According to the Mayo ClinicThe risk of developing Merkel cell carcinoma increases as people age, and although it’s most common in people over 50, it can occur at any age.
The National Cancer Institute says other risk factors include exposure to too much natural sunlight, exposure to artificial sunlight from tanning beds or psoralen and ultraviolet A (PUVA) treatment for psoriasis, or a weakened immune system due to disease or a history of disease. for other types of cancer.
Merkel cell melanoma is second only to melanoma as the most common cause of death from skin cancer, affecting about 3,000 Americans each year. Per the Cleveland Clinic.
What are the symptoms of Merkel cell skin cancer?
Merkel cell carcinoma usually appears on sun-exposed skin as a single, rapidly growing, painless, firm, dome-shaped or raised lump that is red or purple in color. According to the National Cancer Institute. This may be the first sign of a possible Merkel cell carcinoma diagnosis.
“Most Merkel cell carcinomas They appear on the face, head, or neck, but they can develop anywhere on your body, even in areas that aren’t exposed to sunlight, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The Mayo Clinic suggests making an appointment with your doctor if you notice a mole, freckle or bump that changes in size, shape or color, grows quickly or bleeds easily after washing your skin or shaving.
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What causes Merkel cell melanoma?
The Mayo Clinic states that although exposure to this substance is not the proven cause of Merkel cell carcinoma, it is considered a risk factor.
“Researchers have recently discovered that a common virus plays a role in causing most causes of Merkel cell carcinoma,” says the Mayo Clinic. “The virus (multiplastic Merkel cell virus) lives on the skin and does not cause any signs or symptoms. How this virus causes Merkel cell carcinoma has not yet been determined. Given that the virus is very common, Merkel cell carcinoma is very rare.” It is possible that other risk factors may play a role in the development of this cancer.”
How can I prevent skin cancer?
Tips from the Mayo Clinic for preventing skin cancer:
- Avoid the sun during its peak hours, usually from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m
- Protect your skin and eyes by wearing hats, tightly woven clothing, and sunglasses with UV protection.
- Use sunscreen abundantly and frequently, using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 even when it’s cloudy outside. Reapply every two hours and more often if you are swimming or sweating.
- Stay on top of changes in the skin.
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