University of Iowa Health Care

Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences

Merkel Cell Carcinoma

Contributor: Lucas Lenci, MD

Category: Oculoplastics

Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is a rare neuroendocrine tumor. These tumors are quite aggressive in nature with high metastatic and mortality rates. Most arise in the head and neck region. According to one study, the five most common features of MCC at presentation are asymptomatic or lack of tenderness (88%), rapid expansion (63%), immunosuppression (7.8%), older than 50 years of age (90%), and location on UV exposed skin (81%) - leading to the development of the acronym AEIOU to aid in diagnosis.

Pictured in Figure 1 is an unusually large tumor.

an unusually large tumor.

Pictured in Figure 2 is a smaller lesion.

Merkel Cell carcinoma


Heath M, Jaimes N, Lemos B, et al. Clinical characteristics of Merkel cell carcinoma at diagnosis in 195 patients: the AEIOU features. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2008;58(3):375-81. 

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last updated: 08/25/2015
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