8 Celebrities Who Have Battled Lung Cancer

  • Joe DiMaggio, Baseball
    Joe DiMaggio
    Joe DiMaggio—the Yankee Clipper—set one of the most revered records in sports. His 56-game hitting streak earned him a permanent place is baseball history. He’s also on the list of celebrities who have succumbed to lung cancer—the leading cancer killer in the United States. Lung cancer deaths surpass colorectal, breast and prostate cancers combined. So it’s not surprising the list of celebrities is long. Here’s a snapshot of some of those famous faces and their battles.
  • Paul Newman
    Paul Newman
    Paul Newman was an Oscar-winning actor, a professional race car driver, and a generous philanthropist. He was also a former heavy smoker who died of lung cancer in 2008. His diagnosis highlights a key point about lung cancer: About 90% of lung cancer cases are due to smoking. Quitting smoking reduces—but doesn’t eliminate—the risk of developing lung cancer. Ten years after quitting, your risk is about half that of people who still smoke.
  • Abc's Peter Jennings Does A Live Shot During The 2004 Democratic National Convention
    Peter Jennings
    One of the most recognizable newsmen in history, Peter Jennings, also battled lung cancer. He worked for ABC News for more than 40 years and anchored ABC’s “World News Tonight” for over 20 years. In fact, he announced his diagnosis on the air in April 2005. He died four months later at age 67. Like Newman, Jennings was a former smoker. His age at diagnosis is typical of lung cancer. Most people who receive the diagnosis are 60 years of age or older.
  • Dana Reeve, wife of Christopher Reeve, or "Superman", during the Christopher Reeve Foundation's 'A Magical Evening' - Press Conference
    Dana Reeve
    Dana Reeve—widow of “Superman” star Christopher Reeve—shows a flipside of lung cancer. First, she died at age 44, which is extraordinarily young for lung cancer. And she was a nonsmoker. Approximately 10 to 20% of lung cancer cases are not related to smoking. So her death represents the nearly 25,000 Americans who die from lung cancer each year, but who never smoked. Other causes include exposure to radon, air pollution, and occupational carcinogens. Gene mutations may also be responsible for lung cancer in nonsmokers.
  • Walt Disney Portrait Session
    Walt Disney
    Today, the word “Disney” brings to mind theme parks, movies, princesses, and production companies. It’s sometimes hard to remember there was a real man behind the magical world he created. Walt Disney became a cultural icon. He was also a smoker who died of lung cancer at age 65. Mr. Disney, along with the other men on the list so far, illustrates another point about lung cancer: More men than women are diagnosed with lung cancer each year.
  • Nobel Peace Prize Concert Donna Summer
    Donna Summer
    Disco diva Donna Summer died at age 63 from lung cancer. But sources say she, like Dana Reeve, was also a nonsmoker. Her death illustrates ethnic and gender differences in lung cancer. African-Americans are more likely to develop lung cancer than any other racial or ethnic group. They are also more likely to die from it. What’s more, black women are just as likely to develop lung cancer as white women, despite lower smoking rates.
  • Steve McQueen in Le Mans
    Steve McQueen
    Steve McQueen was a bad-boy actor famous for his 1960’s movies “Bullitt” and “The Thomas Crown Affair.” He worked with Hollywood’s best: Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, Candice Bergen and Dustin Hoffman to name a few. McQueen died in 1980 from mesothelioma, a form of lung cancer affecting the lining of the lungs. Exposure to asbestos is the usual cause of mesothelioma. McQueen was likely exposed to asbestos from the racing suits he wore as a racecar driver.
  • 2008 Creative Arts Awards - Press Room - Kathryn Joosten
    Kathryn Joosten
    Kathryn Joosten is another reminder that not all cases of lung cancer are the same. The actress was best known for her role as Mrs. Landingham on “The West Wing.” But she had numerous other TV roles on shows such as “Desperate Housewives” and “Grey’s Anatomy.” When the actress died at age 72, she had been battling lung cancer for several years. This is unusual as nearly half of people die within a year of diagnosis and the five-year survival rate is about 18%. Joosten’s story offers hope that new treatments can extend—and ideally save—the lives of future lung cancer patients.
8 Celebrities Who Have Battled Lung Cancer

About The Author

Sarah Lewis is a pharmacist and a medical writer with over 25 years of experience in various areas of pharmacy practice. Sarah holds a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy degree from West Virginia University and a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy. She completed Pharmacy Practice Residency training at the University of Pittsburgh/VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System. 
  1. Day Walt Disney, an American Icon Who Gave Us Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, Died. NY Daily News. http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/archives-walt-disney-died-lung-cancer-article-1.2042273 
  2. 'Desperate Housewives' Actress Kathryn Joosten Dies. ABC News. http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/entertainment/2012/06/desperate-housewives-actress-kathryn-joosten-dies/ 
  3. Donna Summer Died of Lung Cancer Not Related to Smoking. CNN. http://www.cnn.com/2012/05/18/showbiz/donna-summer-dead/ 
  4. Joe DiMaggio Dies at 84. ESPN. https://espn.go.com/sportscentury/features/00014156.html 
  5. Lung Cancer Fact Sheet. American Cancer Society. http://www.lung.org/lung-disease/lung-cancer/resources/facts-figures/lung-cancer-fact-sheet.html 
  6. Lung Cancer Risks for Non-Smokers. American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/cancer/news/why-lung-cancer-strikes-nonsmokers 
  7. McQueen's Legacy of Laetrile. The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/15/health/mcqueens-legacy-of-laetrile.html?_r=0 
  8. Paul Newman's Death Casts Spotlight on Lung Cancer. Fox News. http://www.foxnews.com/story/2008/09/27/paul-newman-death-casts-spotlight-on-lung-cancer.html 
  9. Peter Jennings Dies of Lung Cancer. CNN. http://www.cnn.com/2005/SHOWBIZ/TV/08/07/jennings.obit/ 
  10. Shock As Dana Reeve Dies At 44. CBS News. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/shock-as-dana-reeve-dies-at-44/ 
  11. When Smokers Quit – What Are the Benefits Over Time? American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/healthy/stayawayfromtobacco/guidetoquittingsmoking/guide-to-quitting-smoking-b...
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2019 Sep 29
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