Category Archives: Dermatology

Skin Cancer: When our good sun hurts! (In the memory of Bob Marley)


Skin cancers are divided into three main types of Basal cell carcinoma, Squamous cell carcinoma and Melanoma, based on the abnormal cell development and proliferation of the type of skin cells. While Basal-cell carcinoma grows slowly and is more localized to the skin tissue, Squamous-cell carcinoma is more aggressive and malignant and can lead to metastatic far distance spread to other body tissues and could be fatal. Melanomas that arise from the melanocytes or skin pigment cells, are the most aggressive, malignant and metastatic, that killed Bob Marley.


While the sun is the source of life on earth and our own life in different aspects depend on its shinning, such as regulation of our circadian rhythm, sleep-wake cycle, and the color of our skin, its excess could contribute to more than 90% of skin cancers cases. The risk nowadays are higher due to a thinner ozone layer, and also the increase fad of artificial tannings as another common source of ultraviolet radiation. The longer and more intense exposures, such as from childhood and the sensitivity of the skin’s subject, for example the white skins, the living zones, such as regions with intense sunshine like Australia and New Zealand, and also the less defensive immune system, the more risk of cancer. (1-2)

Despite all these, and the skin cancer being the most common of all cancers world wide, the early intervention of the skin cancers, even melanoma through removal of the locus of the cancer such as the mole, radiotherapy and medications, have increased the survival rate of all the skin cancers higher than other cancers, close to 90% recovery rate. That takes us to the sad story of Bob Marley, who due to his religious beliefs, refused the full treatment of his melanoma on his toe from 1977, so the cancer spread to his brain and killed him mercilessly on 11 May 1981, at age only 36 and deprived the whole art of music and his global friends form a longer legendary career. (3-5)

Bob Marley, a musical icon, the father of reggae and an international messenger of love and peace, who started with band “The Wailers” , and a national symbol for Jamaica, with all his spirituality, yet could not survive from a small mole on her toe that finally spread to his brain and killed him. His songs such as “One love”, “Is this Love”, “Redemption Song”, “Waiting in Vain”, “Satisfy my Soul”, “O’Woman don’t cry”, “Buffalo Soldier”, “I shot the Sherriff”, “Jamming” and more has no need for an introduction as he is know and loved still to this day by billions. He could easily be the only human’s messenger and representation in popular music and culture. Unfortunately his religious commitment to Rastafari, not to allow the amputation of his cancerous toe so to prevent the spread of the melanoma, deprived him of such a great life and his fans to enjoy his music years longer.


Sunlight: Good, Bad and Ugly

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Alopecia: The secret behind the patchy and total hair loss


Alopecia or pathological hair loss is different than the normal hair loss or hair fall that everybody has to a certain degree, specially as aging. The illness Alopecia if it is limited to a small patch or patches, mostly on scalp that can happen in other areas of the body as well, is called “Alopecia areata”. Alopecia that often is areata or localized as a small patch or patches and most often self-limited and improves, could also rarely lead to the total hair loss of the scalp that is called “Alopecia totalis”, or the total hair loss of the body, called “Alopecia universalis. (1)

Alopecia in its three types is an autoimmune disease, where the body immune system by mistake attacks its own hair follicles for wrongly being recognized as foreign. If there is no inflammation, scars or fibrosis at the site of alopecia areata, the condition is mostly reversible and self-limited, specially in children and adolescents. Alopecia like any other autoimmune diseases could be partly hereditary and runs more in the families with such history or other immune disorders. But like any other immune disorders or any so called “genetic disorders”, Alopecia can occur in anyone for the first time with no hereditary background history of any autoimmune disorders. So what would be the primary cause or trigger of “T cell lymphocytes” as the defenders of the body or our immune system to attack its own?! (2)


The secret behind Alopecia:

As it has been discussed in detail in other articles on autoimmune disorders such as MS (Multiple Sclerosis) and Diabetes Melitus Type 1 on this site, the trigger to the autoimmune disorders are external and caused by microbial invasions. Metabolic defects in the endogenous retinoids, a chemical compound that are vitamers of vitamin A and important in immune function and activation of tumor suppressor genes have been shown to play a key part in the pathogenesis of the alopecia areata. This defect is not only seen in alopecia but also in skin cancers as well. (3) Moreover other than the T lymphocytes, specially the interferon gamma (IFNG) and other T helper cells, cytokines and substance p, all important members of our immune system are involved in alopecia. (4-5)

While there is a well consensus among the experts in the autoimmune pathogenesis of Alopecia, the research has rarely gone behind the scene to identify the primary cause or enemy of our immune system that defects it so it attacks itself! This is despite many evidential reports since late 1940’s and 1950’s, confirming the link between different focal infections from parasitic Tineas to syphilis and fungal infections. (6-9) There have also been surprisingly early reports in 1950’s and 70’s of the reversal of alopecia areata with antibiotics. (10-11) 


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