What Kind of Cancer Did Paul Newman Die From?

What Paul Newman Would Want You to Know about Cancer

Paul Newman and his wife before his death from lung cancer
What kind of cancer did Paul Newman die from?. Getty Images/Peter Kramer

Paul Newman and Lung Cancer

Paul Newman died from lung cancer at the age of 83 in his home in Westport, Connecticut. Though the public didn't hear much at first, he, unlike many celebrities with lung cancer, was open about his diagnosis before his death.

Actor, producer, race car driver, and philanthropist Paul Newman starred in films in an era when smoking was consideredsophisticated. He was apparently a chain-smoker back in those days but quit smoking 30 years before his diagnosis was made public in June of 2008.

More Non-Smokers Than Smokers are Diagnosed with Lung Cancer

Newman’s story is not unique. At the current time, the majority of people who develop lung cancer do not smoke. Roughly 15-20 percent of people who develop the disease have never smoked, and another 50 percent are former smokers who have long since kicked the habit. In other words, though the public was surprised that Dana Reeve, the 44-year-old never-smoking wife of "superman" passed away from lung cancer though she never smoked, this isn't uncommon.

How Long Did Paul Newman Live With Lung Cancer?

We don’t know exactly how long Paul Newman lived with lung cancer. In June of 2008 it was rumored, then denied, then confirmed that Paul Newman had the disease. He passed away on September 26, 2008, 3 months after his diagnosis became known.

In 2007 Paul Newman said he was retiring from acting, but cited reasons other than health concerns.

In May of 2008, he announced he would not be directing “Mice and Men” because of health problems.

It may be that Paul Newman desired the privacy that many famous people are denied. Or it may be the stigma of lung cancer-- that unspoken sense that somehow people with lung cancer deserve the disease -- that kept him silent at first.

Nobody deserves a diagnosis of cancer. Hopefully, others like Paul Newman will open up about their diagnosis, and help to raise awareness about lung cancer - the leading cause of cancer deaths for both men and women in the United States.

Paul Newman's Marriage and Love

There are many ways people will remember Paul Newman that go far beyond his death from lung cancer.  Perhaps the best memories are of a man who upheld the value of marriage amidst the revolving door marriages of tinsel town. Paul Newman was first married to Jackie Witte and had 3 children.  His next wife, Joanne Woodward remained his wife until his death. Paul Newman's marriage and his thoughts on marriage show a tenderness that we should remember more than that he was a former smoker who got lung cancer.

Celebrities Who Had Lung Cancer 

Paul Newman wasn't alone in being a celebrity with lung cancer. Even though it's likely that many have kept quiet, there are several celebrities who had lung cancer ranging from Dana Reeve and Peter Jennings, to the "quiet Beatle" George Harrison and even artist Claude Monet.

It's hoped that going forward, more celebrities with lung cancer will come forward, without the fear of the stigma of the disease.

Raising Awareness about Lung Cancer

Paul Newman's death saddened many of us, but I believe he would be pleased that, if through his death, others would become aware that anyone can get lung cancer. People who quit smoking decades ago can get lung cancer - the risk never returns to normal. And people who have never smoked a single cigarette can get lung cancer.

Lung Cancer Screening

For those who meet certain guidelines, there is now a screening test for lung cancer. It's estimated that this test alone could decrease mortality from lung cancer by 20 percent in the United States.The test is recommended for those people:

  • Between the ages of 55 and 80,
  • Have smoked for at least 30 pack years, and
  • Quit smoking in the past 15 years or continue to smoke,

If this fits you, talk to your doctor about screening. Lung cancer is much more treatable in the early stages of the disease, though treatments for advanced lung cancer, as well as survival rates, are improving. Whether you've smoked or not, familiarize yourself with the early symptoms of lung cancer.  Without a general screening test this is the only way to detect lung cancer in the majority of people. And anyone, absolutely anyone who has lungs, can get lung cancer.


The New York Times. Obituaries. Paul Newman, a Magnetic Titan of Hollywood, Is Dead at 83. 09/27/08. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/28/movies/28newman.html

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