Section : VIPs

Bob Marley and Melanoma

bob marley

  • Bob Marley (; 1945-1981) was a Jamaican singer who participated importantly in the development Reggae and was part part of the cultural « Rastafari » movement
  • He was a big soccer enthusiast and in summer of 1976 he traumatized his right toenail. It was diagnosed as a wound lesion and slowly appeared to be healing.
  • However, such a lesion reappeared while playing soccer a second. This time the doctor performed a biopsy and diagnosed malignant melanoma and it was staged 3 and 4.
  • He was free of symptoms until 1971 when imaging was done for neurological symptoms which revealed a cerebral mass. Diagnoses came out as a metastatic melanoma and he died later that year.
  • He finally accepted a local excision.
  • He initially refused all surgical intervention despite the doctor warning that a toe amputation was required.
  • While the metastasis symptoms presented many years later (which is less usual), there is no scientific evidence for a potential beneficial of marijuana – marijuana was heavily consumed by Bob marley (unrelated, there is in vitro data suggesting that Marijuana might have a beneficial effect on Acne Vulgaris) ( in the FOCUS section (Page 10))

Take home messages

  • early detection of melanoma is the key to improving survival rates. In white individuals, melanoma is detected on average at stage 1 or 2 whereas in Asians, Blacks and Hispanics it is detected at stage 3 or 4. Therefore there is a lack of awareness of melanoma dangers in these ethnic subgroups.
  • in Asians, Blacks and Hispanics melanomas tend to be localized on the periphery of the body such as the palms and soles (acral). It is thought that melanin concentration is higher in other parts of the body, thus reducing the relative risk of finding a melanoma here.
  • In Asians, Blacks and Hispanics, Fitzpatrick skin types may vary, so does the risk of developing a melanoma. Bob Marley’s father was white, so he probably inherited genetic factors which heighten the risk of melanoma and also had a fairer skin complexion.


Dr Christophe HSU – dermatologist. Geneva, Switzerland


Gooding C. A death by skin cancer ? The Bob Marley Story.

Images: Wikipedia