Lung Cancer Claims The Life of Actor Paul Newman

American actor Paul Newman (1925 - 2008), circa 1978. Larry Ellis Collection/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

A heavy smoker for close to three decades, actor Paul Newman died of lung cancer on Sept. 26, 2008, 30 years after he quit smoking.

Following his death, longtime friend and business associate writer A.E. Hotchner said that Mr. Newman had been receiving cancer treatment for 18 months prior to his passing at the age of 83. 

The first public hint that he was not well came on May 23, 2008 when he stepped down from what would have been his directing debut at the Westport Country Playhouse's 2008 stage production of John Steinbeck's  Of Mice and Men due to unspecified health reasons.

By June of 2008, it was reported that Mr. Newman was receiving lung cancer treatment at Sloan-Kettering hospital in New York. 

He succumbed to the disease on September 26, 2008.

While it is disturbing to hear that he quit smoking a long time before getting lung cancer, it is important to understand that if you smoke, smoking cessation does significantly reduce your chance of developing numerous smoking-related diseases, including lung cancer. It doesn't take the risk down to that of someone who never smoked however, and can't undo damage to lung tissue that has already been done.

When we stop inhaling the toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke, some healing does begin immediately and further damage is often averted.

Was smoking cessation futile for Paul Newman?

Absolutely not. It is impossible to know how things might have gone had he continued smoking cigarettes, but chances are good that he would have suffered a major smoking-related health issue sooner than he did.

We do know that Paul Newman lived a long life, and that it was probably much more comfortable, both physically and emotionally because he quit smoking all those years ago. Nicotine addiction is a heavy burden to carry, overshadowing every facet of our lives.

Lung Cancer Screening for Smokers and Ex-Smokers

Most smokers and ex-smokers worry about getting lung cancer.

A lung cancer screening test is now available to current smokers and ex-smokers in the United States who meet certain criteria.  A low dose CT scan is used to check for nodules in the lungs that could mean lung cancer is present.  The procedure is done once a year.

Many insurance companies now pay for the scan, so check with your carrier to see whether you're covered.  If you're not, paying out of pocket will run you approximately $300 U.S. dollars.

There are pros and cons with having the scan done, so if you're uncertain about what you should do, talk to your doctor for additional perspective.

If you're still smoking...

Life doesn't come with guarantees. There is no way to know when we quit whether we have successfully dodged the bullet that smoking is, but we can be sure the gun is still loaded and aimed directly at us if we continue lighting up.

Don't let a fear of quitting paralyze you, and don't waste another moment of your irreplaceable life on a product that is designed to kill, plain and simple.

Quit now.

More reading: Famous Tobacco Victims