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May 31, 2024

Bob Marley and Skin Cancer

Bob Marley was a legendary Jamaican singer, musician, and songwriter, widely known for reggae and for spreading messages of peace. What may not be as widely known about him is that he tragically died from skin cancer at 36 years old.

When Marley found a dark spot under his toenail, he initially thought it was from a soccer injury. He was later diagnosed with acral lentiginous melanoma (ALM), a rare and aggressive form of skin cancer. When faced with treatment options, doctors recommended that he should have his toe amputated. Marley instead opted to pursue excisional surgery, which removed only the nail bed and cancerous tissue. Unfortunately, that surgery did not stop the cancer from metastasizing, and it aggressively spread to his brain, liver, and lungs, leading to his untimely death.

While most melanoma cases are caused by UV exposure from the sun or indoor tanning, ALM can form under nails, on the soles of the feet, or on the palms of the hands. ALM is considered rare, it is the leading cause of melanoma for patients of color.

A lot has changed in how we detect and treat skin cancer since the 1970s, and if Marley were alive today with the same diagnosis at the same age, he likely wouldn’t have met the same fate.

ICRF Related Research in Skin Cancer

Learn more about ICRF’s scientists’ work in skin cancer.

Tal Yardeni, PhD

Ittai Ben-Porath, PhD

Efrat Shema, PhD

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