Beyond the Legend: Bob Marley’s Legacy Sheds Light on Melanoma

The recent release of Bob Marley’s biopic movie happens to be juxtaposed with the month of May, also known as Melanoma Awareness Month. Many people identify Bob Marley with his epic reggae hits and his legendary album Exodus, named by TIME magazine as the greatest album of the 20th century. However, many people are not aware that Bob Marley’s premature passing came from a festering wound on his toe that he had believed he received from playing football—or soccer. It was later discovered that he had malignant melanoma, which he later died from.  It is easy to overlook the fact that dark-skinned individuals can still develop skin cancer. Florida’s Skin Wellness Physicians team explains that though the condition is rare in this population, it can oftentimes be more deadly due to their delay in diagnosis.

In this circumstance, Marley developed a type of melanoma called acral lentiginous melanoma, more commonly seen in dark skinned individuals on the hands or feet.

In 2023, melanoma was the fifth most common cancer, with a five-year relative survival of 93.5 percent and a median age of diagnosis of 66. In men, melanoma is most commonly found on the trunk and especially the back. Women develop melanoma most commonly on the arms and legs.  

Risk factors for melanoma include high UVA or UVB exposure, which is unavoidable in Florida. Additionally, blue eyes, fair and/or red hair, pale complexion, easy burning, history of abnormal moles, and a family history of melanoma (2.2 times higher risk with at least one affected relative) are all risk factors for melanoma.

The gold standard treatment for melanoma is still surgical removal, while systemic therapies are used once the disease has spread from the initial site on the skin.  

Melanoma Awareness Month is the annual opportunity to identify any suspicious lesions one has and—if concerned—see your board-certified dermatologist. Contact Skin Wellness Physicians at (239) 732-0044 if you’d like to schedule a visit.

Dr. Daniel Wasserman

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