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You Won’t Believe Who’s on this List: Celebrities that Have Battled Lung Cancer

Desi Arnaz

Desi Arnaz

Desi Arnaz is best known for his role on the iconic show "I Love Lucy." TV life mirrored real life for Arnaz – his co-star was his real-life wife, Lucille Ball, who played his wife on the show. Arnaz was a regular smoker for much of his life and often smoked cigarettes on the set of I Love Lucy. In 1986, Arnaz was diagnosed with lung cancer, and passed several months later on December 2, 1986, at the age of 69. Lucille telephoned him two days before his death, on what would have been their 46th wedding anniversary.

Joe Dimaggio

Joe Dimaggio

Joe DiMaggio – one of the best all-round baseball players in the history of the game – helped the New York Yankees win nine World Series titles. In 1952, the year after he retired from baseball, DiMaggio met actress Marilyn Monroe and fell madly in love with her, beginning one of American history’s most high-profile romances. He passed away on March 8, 1999 from complications of lung cancer at the age of 84. DiMaggio, a heavy smoker for much of his adult life, was admitted to Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood, Florida, on October 12, 1998, for lung cancer surgery, and remained there for 99 days. He died on March 8, 1999.

Lance Armstrong

Lance Armstrong

World-famous cyclist Lance Armstrong, is well-known for having triumphed over cancer. What is less known, is that the cancer –which had started in his testicles – spread to his lungs and brain. Once diagnosed, lung cancer is often treated with surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy, according to the National Cancer Institute. Armstrong went through a particularly grueling course of treatment, but after a tough battle, Lance Armstrong survived, and became a spokesperson for fighting cancer and survival.

Donna Summer

Donna Summer

Donna Summer – veritable Queen of Disco – knew how to light up a dance floor, but was not one to light up a cigarette. The Grammy-award winning singer died at age 63, after battling lung cancer. If lung cancer in non-smokers had its own separate category, it would rank among the top 10 fatal cancers in the United States.

John Wayne

John Wayne

John Wayne – the iconic American film actor, director, and producer – was a top box office draw for three decades, and won an Oscar for his role in True Grit. He epitomized rugged masculinity, his confident swagger, and Western wiles. John Wayne was well-known not only for his many starring roles, but also as a heavy smoker. He is purported to have smoked more than six packs a day! After surviving a bout with lung cancer, John Wayne died in 1979, reportedly of stomach cancer.

Peter Jennings

Peter Jennings

Lung cancer does not get as much attention as other types of cancer, but it kills more women and men than breast cancer, colon cancer, and prostate cancer combined. The disease has claimed the lives of many famous celebrities – and not all of them smoked.

Famed TV reporter and anchorman – Peter Jennings – who was the sole anchor of ABC's World News Tonight from 1983 until his death in 2005, covered some of the most important world events during that time. A heavy smoker for decades, he died of lung cancer in 2005. He was 67.

George Harrison

George Harrison

George Harrison achieved international fame as the lead guitarist of the world-famous Beatle's – otherwise known as the band that changed the face of rock forever. He was also a singer-songwriter on many of the Beatle's most memorable songs. But in 2001, Harrison died, at age 58, from lung cancer. George Harrison was never in any doubt about the cause of the cancer, which had hit him twice – blaming his smoking habit for the lung and throat tumors he had suffered.

Dana Reeve

Dana Reeve

Christopher Reeve, the famed "Superman" actor, died in 2004. Less than a year later, his widow, Dana Reeve, was diagnosed with lung cancer. She died the following year.

She had never been a smoker. Every year, about 16,000 to 24,000 Americans die of lung cancer, even though they have never smoked. Just goes to show that anyone can get lung cancer.

Babe Ruth

Babe Ruth

George Herman "Babe" Ruth, Jr. was one of the most famous American professional baseball players ever. His career in Major League Baseball spanned 22 seasons – from 1914 through 1935. Nicknamed "The Bambino" and "The Sultan of Swat" Babe Ruth began his pro career as a stellar left-handed pitcher for the Boston Red Sox. But he achieved his greatest fame as a slugging outfielder for the New York Yankees. He was almost as well known for his off-field antics, and legends of his indulgent lifestyle abound. His heavy drinking and smoking affected his career, and just before retiring he was diagnosed with nasopharyngeal carcinoma, which is cancer of the upper throat. Alcohol and tobacco in combination are the primary causes of this disease.

Humphrey Bogart

Humphrey Bogart

Humphrey DeForest Bogart was an Oscar-Winning American movie star, whose performances in such iconic 1940s films noir as The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca, and The Big Sleep, earned him the legacy of cultural icon. Bogart, a heavy smoker and drinker, had developed cancer of the esophagus in 1956. He almost never spoke of his failing health and refused to see a doctor until it was too late to halt the disease, even with chemotherapy. Truth is, 1 in 5 deaths in the USA is due to smoking.

Sammy Davis Jr.

Sammy Davis Jr.

Sammy Davis Jr. was often billed as the "greatest living entertainer in the world." A singer, actor, dancer, comedian, and musician – he was known as someone who could do it all. He started his career at the age of 3, performing vaudeville with his father and Will Mastin, which toured nationally. Famous as one of the mythic "Rat Pack", a group of footloose entertainers that included Humphrey Bogart, Dean Martin, and Frank Sinatra –Davis Jr. was beloved by many. A chain smoker, Davis Jr. was diagnosed with throat cancer, from which he died at age 64.

Dave Matthews

Dave Matthews

Dave Matthews was just 10 years old when his father died of lung cancer.

Along with his band, Dave Matthews has performed at many cancer benefit concerts to help raise funds for lung cancer research. "One day," he told the audience, "we hopefully won't need to have events like this," People.com reported.

Walt Disney

Walt Disney

American cultural icon, Walt Disney, is perhaps the most famous American animator, cartoonist, and American entrepreneur, who forever changed the face of the entertainment business. As a Hollywood business mogul, he and his brother Roy O. Disney founded the Walt Disney Company –creator of such classic films as Fantasia, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella. While Walt only completed one year of high school, he went on to be awarded 26 Oscars, a record held to this day. He was also a long-term smoker, and was infamous for his chronic cough, which marked his presence in a room. He died of lung cancer at age 65, leaving behind a vast legacy.

Duke Ellington

Duke Ellington

“It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.” Duke Ellington--the most important composer in the history of jazz, along with being a bandleader who held his group together for almost 50 years – was also a composer, pianist, and one of the most renowned America musicians. He also died of complications from lung cancer in 1974, just four weeks after his 75th birthday. His last words were, "Music is how I live, why I live and how I will be remembered." His cancer battle was not protracted – and his legacy lives on today.

Bryant Gumbel

Bryant Gumbel

In 2009, Bryant Gumbel revealed on "Live! with Regis and Kelly" that he had had surgery to remove a tumor on his lung two months earlier. While keeping some details confidential, Gumbel was open about the surgery – wanting to share his experience. A former three-pack-a-day smoker, Gumbel shared that he had quit decades before being diagnosed with lung cancer.

R.J. Reynolds + R.J. Reynolds, III, 59, tobacco company heir

R.J. Reynolds + R.J. Reynolds, III, 59, tobacco company heir

Irony abounds here. The founder of RJ Reynolds and his grandson, RJ Reynolds III – the family behind the cigarette brand Camel – both died from lung cancer. And they are not the only Reynolds’s relatives to die from the consequences of cigarettes –the heart and soul of the RJ Reynolds company. Mary Reynolds, daughter of founder RJ Reynolds, also died from lung cancer. Patrick Reynolds, son of RJ Reynolds III, became a prominent anti-tobacco pioneer, in response to the many deaths in his family.

Paul Newman

Paul Newman

In the 1950s, when Paul Newman made his meteoric rise to fame, cigarette smoking was used in movies and on TV to covey sophistication, masculinity, and sex appeal. His iconic role in "Cool Hand Luke," shows him coolly drawing on a cigarette in promotional posters. In both his famous roles, and in real life, Newman smoked cigarettes, and was a heavy smoker at one time. He once famously shared that "it's absolutely amazing that I survived all the booze and smoking and the cars and the career.” Newman quit smoking in 1978 – yet was diagnosed with lung cancer decades later. He died in 2008. Although stopping smoking helps curb damage to the lungs as years pass, the chance of lung cancer is never completely gone. Smoking is behind about 90% of all lung cancer cases, and is the leading cause of cancer death in the USA of both men and women.

Nat King Cole

Nat King Cole

Nat King Cole--born Nathaniel Adams Cole in 1919 – was a prominent American singer who first became famous as a jazz pianist. He was well-known for his soft baritone voice, and was a major force in popular music for more than three decades, during which her recorded many hit songs, like "Unforgettable." Cole was one of the first African-Americans to host his own national television show – The Nat King Cole Show. Sadly, Cole died young, succumbing to lung cancer at just 45 years of age.

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