June 20, 2024
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Why did Bob Marley refuse treatment for cancer?

Bob Marley was diagnosed with acral lentiginous melanoma which ultimately claimed his life. Knowing the warning signs of this rare form of melanoma, finding it and treating it early enough can make the difference between life and death. He was diagnosed with his toe in 1977.

Doctors advised Marley, who was a devout Rastafarian, to have the toe amputated. He refused, on grounds that it would possibly interfere with his performance and it was against his Rastafarian beliefs. A few years later, it had spread to his brain. He passed in 1981.

Doctors could have stopped the spread of cancer by amputating the toe. But Marley refused and opted instead for a less invasive solution. The Rastafarian belief is based on The Book of Leviticus 21:5 in the Old Testament and The Torah.

They shall not make baldness upon their heads, neither shall they shave off the corner of their beard, nor make any cuttings in their flesh.

So while his death very well could have been prevented, Marley went to his grave without compromising his spiritual beliefs.

The legendary Jamaican singer, musician and songwriter, Bob Marley, was born on February 6, 1945. Sadly, Marley did not celebrate as many birthdays as he should have. He died of melanoma in 1981 when he was only 36 years old.

It’s easy to see how he missed the warning signs. When a dark spot appeared under his toenail, Marley attributed it to a soccer injury. He probably did not imagine the spot could be serious, but it was. The spot under his nail was a rare, aggressive form of skin cancer called acral lentiginous melanoma (ALM).

Most melanomas are caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or tanning beds. But ALM, which develops on hairless skin such as under nails, on the soles of the feet or palms of the hands, is more likely caused by genetic factors. While ALM is rare overall, it is the most common form of melanoma found in people of colour.

If Marley’s cancer had been detected early, it could have been treated and possibly cured. Instead, his melanoma spread, or metastasized, to other areas of his body and tragically cut his life short.

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