NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms

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The NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms features 7,812 terms related to cancer and medicine.

Browse the dictionary by selecting a letter of the alphabet or by entering a cancer-related word or phrase in the search box.

Merkel cell
(MER-kul sel)
A special type of cell found right below the epidermis (top layer of skin). These cells are very close to the nerve endings that receive the sensation of touch and may be involved in touch. The cells also contain substances that may act as hormones.

EnlargeAnatomy of the skin with Merkel cells; drawing shows normal skin anatomy, including the epidermis, dermis, hair follicles, sweat glands, hair shafts, veins, arteries, fatty tissue, nerves, lymph vessels, oil glands, and subcutaneous tissue. The pullout shows a close-up of the epidermis with Merkel cells above the dermis with a vein and artery. Nerves are connected to Merkel cells.

Anatomy of the skin showing the epidermis, dermis, and subcutaneous tissue. Merkel cells are in the layer of basal cells at the deepest part of the epidermis and are connected to nerves.