In May 1981, the world lost legendary reggae star Bob Marley. After injuring himself playing football in 1977, his ‘injury’ was getting worse instead of healing. He was diagnosed with an aggressive form of malignant melanoma and advised to have his toe amputated. Due to Bob Marley’s Rastafarian beliefs, he refused this course of treatment. While performing in New York in 1980, Marley went for a jog in Central Park and collapsed. Rushed to the hospital, it was found that the cancer had spread throughout his body. He travelled to Germany to be cared for by a holistic physician but soon realised the cancer was terminal. On May 11, 1981, on his journey home to Jamaica, his condition grew worse. The plane landed in Miami, where he died at the age of 36.
Studies have recently been shown that Bob Marley suffered from a rare and genetic form of skin cancer called acral melanoma. Although this form of skin cancer isn’t strongly linked to UV exposure, it is a reminder that everyone, regardless of skin colour, can contract the disease. And when melanoma does occur in darker-skinned people, their survival time is shorter than that of light-skinned people. A larger portion of melanomas found in darker-skinned people are more serious and are usually found on the sole of the foot or palm of the hand or in the nail bed. This unfortunately leads to delays in diagnosis. Many patients are under the impression that they cannot fall prey to melanoma, due to their race. These delays mean the skin cancer is often more advanced and potentially fatal, whereas most skin cancers are curable if caught and treated earlier.