In July 1977, Marley was found to have a type of malignant melanoma under the nail of a toe. Contrary to urban legend, this lesion was not primarily caused by an injury during a football match that year but was instead a symptom of already-existing cancer. Marley turned down his doctors’ advice to have his toe amputated which would have hindered his performing career.
Shortly afterward, Marley’s health deteriorated as his cancer had spread throughout his body. After eight months of effectively failing to treat his advancing cancer Marley boarded a plane for his home in Jamaica.
While Marley was flying home from Germany to Jamaica, his vital functions worsened. After landing in Miami, Florida, he was taken to the Cedars of Lebanon hospital (now University of Miami Hospital) for immediate medical attention.
Marley died on 11 May 1981, aged 36. The spread of melanoma to his lungs and brain caused his death.