New research details rare cancer that killed Bob Marley

"But acral skin cancer is different because the gene faults that drive it aren't caused by UV damage," said Professor Richard Marais.
By Brooks Hays  |  Aug. 20, 2014 at 2:16 PM
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MANCHESTER, England, Aug. 20 (UPI) -- Acral melanomas -- a rare form of skin cancer and the type that claimed the life of reggae musician Bob Marley -- are genetically distinct from more common types of skin cancer, according to new research by scientists in the United Kingdom.

A team of researchers from the Cancer Research U.K. at The University of Manchester compared the DNA of several acral melanoma tumors to several other types of skin cancer tumors. They found that the genetic malformation in the acral melanoma tumors was different than the genetic defects of the others.

Most skin cancer tumors feature small flaws in their genetic code. But scientists found in many of the acral melanoma tumors that large chunks of normal DNA coding had been torn off and reattached elsewhere.

Acral melanomas is one of the most aggressive forms of skin cancer. The tumors are mostly found on hairless portions of skin, like palms, the soles of the feet, and the skin underneath toe and fingernails. Marley's tumor first appeared under the nail of his big toe. The cancer eventually spread throughout his body. Marley died in 1981.

Professor Richard Marais, director of the Cancer Research U.K. Manchester Institute and lead researcher of the study into acral melanomas, says their research shows acral melanomas are not caused by UV exposure like other forms of skin cancer are.

"Too much UV radiation from the sun or sunbeds can lead to a build-up of DNA damage that increases skin cancer risk," Marais explained in a press release. "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," Marais added.

Scientists at the institute hope further research into the origins of acral melanomas' genetic glitches will lead to more effective treatments.

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