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Famous People Affected By Asbestos Exposure and Mesothelioma

Asbestos exposure has affected people from all different economic backgrounds. Mesothelioma is becoming so widespread that people from all walks of life have had some type of experience with it, be it a family member afflicted or a close friend. The rich and famous are not immune to developing mesothelioma through asbestos exposure, and there have been many famous people affected by the disease over the years.

Paul Gleason

Paul Gleason is most known for his role of the strict principal in the movie, The Breakfast Club in 1985, however, he had a long successful acting career and starred and appeared in several films and television shows. He acted in the movies, National Lampoon’s Van Wilder, Die Hard and Not Another Teen Movie, and also played the role of Dr. David Thornton on “All My Children” for two years.

In 2006, Gleason died at the age of 67 from mesothelioma. It was suspected that Gleason was exposed to asbestos as a teen while working for his father, who was an ironworker and roofing manufacturer. It was the exposure that Gleason had as a teen that most likely caused cancer that eventually took his life. He left behind a wife, two daughters and a granddaughter.

Stephen J. Gould

Stephen J. Gould was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma at the age of 40 while working as an evolutionary biologist at Harvard University. He was a well-known scientist and writer who published The Structure of Evolutionary Theory two months before he died.

Remarkably, Gould lived 20 years after his initial mesothelioma diagnosis, and he died of cancer, unrelated to his mesothelioma cancer. Since mesothelioma was discovered at such an early stage of disease, Gould was young and in otherwise good health, he was a perfect candidate for what he called the skewed right side of the median survival rate of eight months for mesothelioma.

Gould wrote an influential piece titled, The Median Isn’t the Message where he describes how the eight-month prognosis for mesothelioma only pertains to half of the diagnosed cases. He believed he fell outside that group due to his young age and good health, had a positive attitude about his diagnosis and knew he would receive the nation's best medical treatment.

Steve McQueen

Steve McQueen was well-known for the anti-hero characters he often played in movies including The Magnificent Seven and television series such as Wanted: Dead or Alive. He also had a passion for and raced cars and motorcycles while studying acting to support himself financially. Around the time McQueen starred in The Getaway, he became the world’s highest paid actor.

There was also much discussion about the unconventional treatments McQueen sought after being diagnosed with mesothelioma in 1979. He traveled to Mexico where he received treatment from a doctor supposedly not qualified to treat his condition. It was in Mexico where he went for surgery to remove a massive tumor and suffered a fatal heart attack from the operation.

Shortly before McQueen died, he was interviewed about having mesothelioma, and he stated that he may have been exposed to asbestos in sound-stage insulation on movie sets, in the protective suits and helmets he wore to drive race cars, but more significantly during his time in the Marines removing asbestos lagging from pipes aboard a troop ship