The late reggae icon Bob Marley died back in 1981, battling an uncommon type of skin cancer called acral melanoma. According to a new study by a group of investigators from the Cancer Research U.K. at The University of Manchester, United Kingdom, this type of melanoma has shown to be quite different from the other known types of skin cancer, and can be caused by other factors other than exposure to harmful UV rays.
The scientists correlated the genetic information of a number of acral melanoma tumors to the other forms of skin tumors and discovered that the cancerous genetic mutations found in acral melanoma tumors were very different from those seen in the more common types of skin cancer. According to their findings, most skin cancer tumor cells exhibit minor defects in their DNA, compared to the massive ones in acral melanoma cells.
This rare type of skin cancer has proven to be one of the most life-threatening types, mostly manifesting on areas of the body without hair such as the palms, soles, and under toes and fingernails. Bob Marley’s acral melanoma developed under one of his big toenails, then quickly metastasized all over his body before it claimed his life.
Interesting, lead investigator Richard Marais, who is also a professor and Director of the Cancer Research U.K. Manchester Institute, said their study reveals how this form of skin cancer is not attributed to excessive exposure to ultraviolet rays, as is the case with the more common types. In the case of Bob Marley’s death, the public has for the most part assumed that the skin cancer that killed him was a result of overexposure to sunlight.
Similar oncologic studies such as this that seek to identify specific genetic malformations are crucial to understanding rare and deadly tumors. Other investigators at the institute are motivated to expound on acral melanoma research, and hope to translate their findings to more effective and accessible treatments.
While acral melanomas may not have UV exposure as a definitive cause, the majority of skin cancers do. Click here to learn more about what steps you can take to minimize the risk of developing a skin tumor.