September 06, 2023

Jimmy Buffet Dies of Merkel Cell Carcinoma Skin Cancer


On Sept 1, 2023, Jimmy Buffet died from merkel cell carcinoma which is a rare and deadly skin cancer... Way more deadly than melanoma. Melanoma has a 10 year survival rate of 61.3% whereas merkel cell carcinoma is only 17.7% [link]. 5 year survival rates for merkel cell carcinoma is 75% if localized to the skin (stage 1) and only 24% if it has already spread elsewhere in the body (stage 4) [link].

Jimmy Buffet died within 4 years of his merkel cell carcinoma diagnosis. It is unclear what stage his merkel cell caricnoma was at time of diagnosis, but early diagnosis is key to survival! As you can see from the video above, an early diagnosis is unfortunately uncommon because this skin cancer spreads painlessly in the early stages and quickly, usually to lymph nodes first and then to other parts of the body, including the brain, lungs and bones. Merkel cell carcinoma is much more likely to spread to other parts of the body compared to other types of skin cancers like basal cell and squamous cell, and grows much more quickly.

I personally have encountered merkel cell carcinoma in only 2 patients within the past 20 years.

Other more common skin cancer development can be seen in the video below.

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Fauquier ENT

Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids.

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