Pagetoid intraepidermal spread in Merkel cell (primary neuroendocrine) carcinoma of the skin

Am J Surg Pathol. 1992 Jun;16(6):584-92. doi: 10.1097/00000478-199206000-00006.


Pagetoid intraepidermal spread of neoplastic cells was noted in six cases of Merkel (primary neuroendocrine) cell carcinoma of the skin. In two cases, the volume of the intraepidermal portion of the neoplasm was either equal to or more extensive than the dermal component. The intraepidermal component in all six cases was remarkable because of the following findings: the presence of cells with scant cytoplasm arranged both individually and as nests, sometimes along the dermoepidermal junction; splaying of the apical portions of basal keratinocytes by solitary neoplastic cells; incomplete rims of compressed basal keratinocytes at the peripheries of some junctional nests; and occasional contiguity of neuroendocrine carcinoma cells with those of Bowen's disease or solar keratosis. These features can be used to distinguish these Merkel cell carcinomas from other lesions that have a pagetoid pattern, even in superficial biopsies, and immunohistochemistry can confirm the diagnosis or resolve problematic cases. The occurrence of cutaneous neuroendocrine carcinoma situated largely in the epidermis raises the possibility that some of these tumors may arise from intraepidermal Merkel cells.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biopsy
  • Carcinoma, Merkel Cell / pathology*
  • Carcinoma, Merkel Cell / surgery
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Paget Disease, Extramammary / pathology
  • Skin / pathology
  • Skin Diseases / pathology
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Skin Neoplasms / surgery