SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – After a four-year battle, beloved singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett died of Merkel cell carcinoma last week.

Though Merkel cell carcinoma is 40-times more rare than melanoma, it tends to be much more aggressive, often recurring in patients. Early detection, however, can make this cancer easier to treat.

22News spoke with Baystate Health oncologist Dr. John McCann, who broke down how this cancer differs from other skin cancers, including signs and symptoms, “Typically what someone sees when they develop a Merkel cell cancer is usually a lump that’s either tan or reddish looking. It’s not what we think about with melanoma where it can be very dark. It is different in most of the other skin cancers that we see, in that it can be very aggressive and tends to spread very early on in its course.”

Typical risk factors include having fair skin and prolonged sun exposure. Dr. McCann says it’s also more common among the elderly.

Though aggressive, there is treatment available, which often involves surgery and some radiation. According to McCann, new treatments are being developed involving immune therapy, which uses medication to activate your own immune system.

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Kaelee Collins is a reporter who has been a part of the 22News team since 2022. Follow Kaelee on X @kaelee_collins and view her bio to see more of her work.