Famous Men with Prostate Cancer

See my list of famous men with prostate cancer on Amazon.com.

Famous Men with Prostate Cancer
The list of men who have had prostate cancer is a long one. This list is not exhaustive, but we are adding to it all the time.

Marion Barry: He was successfully treated in 1995.

Harry Belafonte: He was diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer in 1996 and successfully treated. He is now a prostate cancer advocate, raising awareness of the disease in men.

Bill Bixby: Diagnosed in 1991. He succumbed to the disease on November 21, 1993.

James Brown: The Godfather of Soul was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2004 but survived. He died of heart failure in 2006.

Robert DeNiro: The Academy Award winner was diagnosed with early-stage cancer in 2003 at the age of 60. He has kept details of his treatment private. His father died of prostate cancer at the age of 71.

Sen. Bob Dole: Diagnosed in 1991 and successfully treated, he became an outspoken prostate cancer advocate. He became a spokesperson for Viagra because of the problems prostate cancer survivors often experience with erectile dysfunction.

Louis Farrakhan: Diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1991. In 1994, he received brachytherapy seed implants. In 1999, he had a near-death experience caused by complications from radiation therapy. In 2003, he founded the Louis Farrakhan Prostate Cancer Foundation. In January 2007 he underwent 12-hour abdominal surgery to correct problems from the 1994 seed implant surgery.

Robert Frost: The poet was diagnosed in 1962, had a radical prostatectomy the same year, and died in 1963.

Rudy Giuliani: The former New York City mayor was diagnosed with prostate cancer in April 2000 and had surgery to implant radioactive seeds in September 2000. Giuliani’s father died from prostate cancer in 1981 at the age of 73.

Robert Goulet: Diagnosed in 1993 at the age of 60 after a routine blood test for insurance purposes, Goulet underwent a radical prostatectomy and is now free of prostate cancer. He has remained an outspoken prostate cancer advocate.

Merv Griffin: Diagnosed in 2000 at the age of 75 and underwent 7 weeks of radiation therapy.

Alec Guinness: While battling glaucoma, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in January 2000. In July 2000, he was diagnosed with advanced liver cancer and died a month later on August 5, 2000.

Langston Hughes: Died on May 22, 1967 at the age of 65 after complications from abdominal surgery related to prostate cancer.

John Kerry: The former presidential candidate was diagnosed in late 2002 with early-stage prostate cancer and had successful nerve-sparing prostate cancer surgery in 2003. Kerry’s father died of prostate cancer in 2000 at the age of 85.

Timothy Leary: The 1960s counterculture icon died from the disease in 1996 at the age of 75.

Phil Lesh : The Grateful Dead bassist announced that he was diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer in October 2006.

Nelson Mandela: Diagnosed in 2001 with early-stage cancer. He underwent seven weeks of radiotherapy and made a full recovery.

Roger Moore: The former 007 was successfully treated with surgery in 1993.

Pablo Neruda: Died of the disease in 1973 at the age of 69.

Laurence Olivier: Diagnosed in 1967 and underwent radiation treatment that successfully eradicated the cancer.

Jerry Orbach: The Law and Order star died from the disease in Dec. 28, 2004 at the age of 69.

Linus Pauling: The Nobel Prize winner was diagnosed in 1991 at the age of 90 and died of the disease in 1994.

Colin Powell: In 2003, he underwent surgery for early-stage prostate cancer and made a full recovery.

Johnny Ramone: The Ramones guitarist died in 2004 at the age of 55 after a five-year battle with the disease.

Telly Savalas: The “Kojak” star died of the disease in 1994 at the age of 70.

Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf: Diagnosed in 1993 and underwent successful surgery.

Pierre Elliot Trudeau: The Prime Minister of Canada died of prostate cancer in 2000 at the age of 80.

Bishop Desmond Tutu: Diagnosed after a routine exam in 1996. He was treated in the United States with hormone therapy and radiation.

Earl Woods: Tiger Woods’ father was diagnosed in 1998 and successfully treated with radiation, but the cancer returned more aggressively in 2004. Woods died on May 3, 2006 at the age of 74.

Frank Zappa: Died of complications from the disease on December 4, 1993 at the age of 52.

Moishe Rosen- Founder of Jews for Jesus ( See post on this)

Robert Ablin- Father of Richard Ablin and in whom his son’s Foundation is named after.  Richard Ablin first discovered the PSA antigen that led to other’s developing the PSA test.  Ablin Ph.D is critical of the PSA test and it’s current use. (See my letter to the NYT regarding Richard Ablin.)

Dennis Hopper- Of ” Easy Rider” fame died May 29, 2010 around a year after his diagnosis was made public.

When I was in about seventh grade my oldest brother Rushton had this Mother’s of Invention record. I remember the music on it was very different than what I was hearing on the radio and certainly different from the band I was most familiar with, The Beatles.  Most of the songs were very wierd sounding with a lot of talking. There was a song called “Don’t eat the yellow snow.” I don’t know what it is about a famous person having a particular disease or why that may be relevant. I do know for me that when I learned that Frank Zappa (of The Mother’s of Invention) it totally changed my perception of prostate cancer. How could a relatively young person and rock star have a disease of old people? That is when I first “got it” about the dual nature of prostate cancer and this was fortified when I learned that a friend’s father who was a General practitioner died seven months after his diagnosis of prostate cancer. He had metastatic bone disease as the first sign.

The deal with all the talk of informed consent and prostate cancer really has a lot to do with the cost effectiveness of the study, not that ultimately lives are saved. The problem with the debated is we do not have a way of differentiating the Frank Zappa, Bill Bixby, Dan Folgeberg type from the rest. In my opinion we are not ready to begin rationing out the PSA yet until we can figure out the bad kinds. I have have had too many patients with a normal feeling gland and relatively mild elevation of the PSA and subsequently have a very aggressive prostate cancer on biopsy. As a urologist I and the family of such a patient would be quite disappointed if this type patient adopted a watch and wait approach before we even knew of the diagnosis, thus delaying even further the finding of an aggressive tumor with “unaggressvie parameters.” This is the crux of the matter complicated by cost and the larger percentage of patients that have the more favorable type of prostate cancer. We just can’t tell the difference right now without a biopsy and today the most common reason for a biopsy is an elevated PSA-not an abnormal rectal exam or prostate symptoms.

Look at some of th ages of the famous men and how quickly they died after diagnosis. Its Bart Simpson’s “Damned if you do and damned if you don’t” all over again.


13 Replies to “Famous Men with Prostate Cancer”

  1. Hello, Dr. McHugh:

    I happened upon your writings while surfing the internet for material on a chapter I am writing as part of a comprehensive book on Prostate Cancer for Everyman
    and The Woman Who Wants Him to Live.
    Specifically, I have a chapter which deals with the fact that men who get this disease aren’t alone and deserve as well as have support and need more TLC and understanding.

    Thank you for sharing. It makes a difference to me…

    Also, I am daring to venture into the area of tumor seeding and decision making…


    Daphna J. Goren, MS.RN,MSN jadesabra06#aol.com


    1. thanks so much for following and your kind remarks. i am asked often , “does the needle used to poke holes in my prostate to get the specimens spread the cancer?” i don’t know if that is the tumor seeding you’re referring to but it is a common concern and i will address that on a subsequent post. about tlc. i had given my book to a mutual friend of my wife and me a week or so ago. he sees her in a grocery store and my wife asked him if he’d had a chance to read any of it. he said, ” yes, it’s all about you.” the role of the female is huge and i dare say that women help the man more with prostate cancer than the men help the women with breast cancer. i was raised by my mother and grandmother and have this universal respect for women, particularly as mothers and partners, so i may be biased. please use me in any way that will forward your project. jm


  2. Hello, again Dr. McHugh:

    In your reply, you made my point about the significant role a woman has in urging, nudging, helping, promoting and enabling her man to see a urologist sooner rather than later; thus affecting the outcomes.

    As far as the chapter on prostate cancer tumor seeding is concerned: I am seriously concerned about patients and their families not being aware of the possibility of cancer recurrence due to either tumor self seeding, surgical tumor seeding, biopsy-related tumor seeding etc. There is nothing anywhere that addresses this potential dilemma on any surgical informed consent form. Further, with this
    possibility, is it ethical, fair and even remotely appropriate to have any urologist tell a prostrate cancer patient ” I got it all” or “gave you clean margins, you’re good to go” or
    “you’re cured”. I am having this dilemma as a chapter on tumor seeding and am worried that it might raise a controversy if the book were to be published and I believe it will be. Further, the idea is not to frighten any patient away from surgery but to inform, familiarize, teach and
    lend some understanding about this possibility

    Please tell me what you think about this phenomenon.

    Thank you for ‘being there’ to read what I have to say.
    It is like long-distance mentoring.





    1. hi and thanks for being out there. i agree that no one should be told they are “cured.” it is fine to say, “things look good” or “i am pleased with the surgery and the path reoport” or ” it will be a good sign if there is no evidence of the disease at five years”, but to tell folks your cured is just something you can’t do with any cancer. i am always disappointed with commercials that say cure prostate cancer or books that have “how to cure your cancer” in the title.
      on tumor seeding….i apologize i don’t have much info on that….as i have said in a previous post… i am sure it could happen, if it did you’d think it would be along the track of the needle (between the prostate and the rectal mucosa)…. i all my years i have never seen a recurrence of prostate cancer that ocurred there or along the path of the biopsy needle. wish i could be more help on that…something to consider is … how would you get the tissue to make the diagnosis in the first place if you don’t take a biopsy?…..a bart simpson moment…”damned if you do…damned if you don’t”


  3. I’m a survivor-so-far of PCa, thanks to a timely diagnosis and 78 Gy of proton beam therapy. Your comments re the current PSA controversy are spot-on and appreciated. I had annual PSA tests since age 51, so when it suddenly doubled after 13 years of gradual rise, the ensuing biopsy, diagnosis, and treatment were all no-brainers. I read a recent academic study which concluded that one PSA test at age 60 would save a lot of unnecessary biopsies and treatment (and, not incidentally, money), but wonder how many advanced and, possibly, untreatable cases would result as well.


    1. Your point is the point exactly. Hope you continue to do well and thanks for your input. Ps…if a women has an abnormal mamogram and the doctor does a biopsy and the biopsy is negative for cancer…was the biopsy or the mamogram unnecessary?


  4. I would urge all men to ask their Doctor for the actually reading of their PSA.
    My husband had his PSA done for 10 years, since he was 50. It was so high when his Doctor finally told him he needed a biopsy…6.9. What was this health professional thinking? I am afraid he has had surgery and still has a reading.
    He starts salvage radiation in three weeks. Saying early testing is the answer is only as good as the Doctor reading the results.


  5. Hello, after about a year’s hiatus. Do you remember me from previous comments on prostate cancer? I am the advance practice nurse clinician writing a book on prostate cancer. We emailed before and I see it printed above.
    I wanted to get your professional take on what I consider invalid, dangerous, a promotor of a false sense of security – namely, the formal panel recommending stopping annual PSA tests in “asymptomatic and healthy men”. They don’t even contemplate or consider the fact that ptostate cancer is SILENT KILLER and that many younger men in their 40’s and 50’s are presenting with this deadly disease. This panel, looks at raw statistics from the UK and a few other places and are satisfied that only a small percentage of patients with this disease actually die of it. I wonder if the life of every man is so unimportant and only a collective statistic drives their engine. This is unacceptable to me and is not agreed upon by most Urology-Oncologists. The Internists and Family Practitioners support the panel’s position I believe it is a DANGEROUS,AND MISLEADING premise and will prove to increase mortality if the population responds by decreasing PSA and digital rectal exams.

    Ethically speaking, every man has the right to have a PSA exam if he so wishes. I wonder if any physician can reassure any man that he doesn’t need a PSA test simple because he is visibly asymptomatic.What sort of ethical stance is this brand of medical advice in light of the fact that early prostate cancer is symptomless. The panel thinking that PSA testing causes greater harm than benefit is inconceivablein light of saving many mens’ lives. If the
    simple and easy blood test might cause an infection or a little bleeding or even a moment’s discomfort to the patient, how does that weight against refraining and the outcome of late diagnosis, decreased quality of life and premature death.Shall we ask men who are in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s if they are willing to risk this freightening cost containment measure and cheer its potentially disasterous outcomes.

    What do you think?

    Greetings from Daphna J. Goren, MS,RN,MSN jadesabra06@aol.com


  6. Lately, I have seen a number of articles which state emphatically that
    a woman doesn’t have a prostate gland and therefore, does not risk having prostate cancer… In reality, however, a woman does have the equivalent of a prostate gland; namely, skene’s gland. This gland performs the same function as does the man’s prostate gland. Also, while it is rare to find a woman who has had skene’s gland cancer, there have been 1 or 2 cases cited.


  7. Very interesting site. My story: I was fit and healthy mid forties with a father that had bladder related problems who refused to see a doctor. I suspected prostate problems and started to get my own PSA checked, he later was diagnosed with incurable terminal PCa with PSA levels over 100. At 50 my PSA levels gradually climbed and following a biopsy confirned PCa. At 51 I underwent the nerve sparing radical surgery making a full recovery. I’m 53 now and thanks to a doctor who says early action=cure, my PSA is stable at 0.002 and are looking forward to growing old with my family and friends.


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