Bob Marley Died Due to a Rare Skin Cancer, Scientists Learn More About The Disease

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By Sarah Thomas | August 21, 2014 3:55 PM EST

Singer-songwriter and musician, Bob Marley's death was caused due to a rare type of skin cancer called Acral Melanoma. This is a very distinct skin cancer. Cancer Research UK scientists have found that this disease is genetically different from the more common type of skin cancers.

Reuters
A reggae fan looks at photographs of Bob Marley at an exhibition in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, February 4, 2005. REUTERS/Antony Njuguna

According to a study published in the journal Pigment Cell & Melanoma Research, this form of cancer mainly affects all the hairless parts of the body such as the palms of the hand, soles of the feet and nail beds. Melanoma most often is caused by Ultra Violet rays from the sun, but Acral melanoma is not caused due to this.

The study was conducted by the researchers from the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute at The University of Manchester. They collected data from five patients who were diagnosed with acral melanoma and combined this with data from three other patients. They then compared the data from all the eight with those suffering from other, more common type of skin cancer.

Researchers found damage in the DNA of those suffering from acral melanoma; the DNa damage was highly different from the rest of the cancer type.  In other skin cancer patients there small DNA changes but in the acral melanoma patients huge chunks of the DNA were broken off and reattached elsewhere.

Study leader Professor Richard Marais, director of the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute, at The University of Manchester, said, "Too much UV radiation from the sun or sunbeds can lead to a build-up of DNA damage that increases skin cancer risk. But acral skin cancer is different because the gene faults that drive it aren't caused by UV damage. Pinpointing these faults is a major step towards understanding what causes this unique form of cancer, and how it can best be treated."

Nell Barrie, senior science information manager at Cancer Research UK, said that they hoped that the study which enabled them to find these variations in the DNA of those suffering from acral melanoma could help in developing a way of treating the disease. Since acral melanoma is extremely dangerous and leads to death, it is an aggressive type of skin cancer. Barrie stated that their scientists were working mainly to improve the survival for all cancer patients, even if it was a rare form of the disease.

"And this is why skin cancer will be a key research focus for the Manchester Cancer Research Centre," said Berrie.

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(Photo: Reuters / )
A reggae fan looks at photographs of Bob Marley at an exhibition in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, February 4, 2005. REUTERS/Antony Njuguna
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