Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer typically caused by asbestos exposure. Asbestos becomes trapped in the mesothelium, which is the lining of such vital internal organs as the lung, stomach, and heart. It can become cancerous over time, when it is known as mesothelioma. Numerous celebrities and other notable people have died from this disease.
Steve McQueen, a famous American actor principally from the 1960s and 1970s was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma in December 1979. The peritoneum is the lining of the stomach. His mesothelioma was at such an advanced stage that U.S. doctors declined to offer McQueen surgery or chemotherapy due to the risk involved. As a result, Mr. McQueen sought treatment in Mexico.
Despite the risks involved in the procedure, McQueen underwent surgery in Juarez, Mexico to remove a large tumor in his abdomen. McQueen died of a heart attack the day following the surgery on November 7, 1980. McQueen attributed his asbestos exposure to the removing of asbestos lagging from pipes aboard a ship while in the Marines.
In 2006, film and television actor Paul Gleason died of pleural mesothelioma, which affects the lining of the lungs. Gleason played a supporting role in several blockbuster movies from the 1980s including Trading Places, The Breakfast Club, and Die Hard. Gleason believed he got mesothelioma from asbestos exposure while working on building sites when he was young.
More recently, Merlin Olsen, a Professional Football Hall of Fame defensive lineman, actor, and television football commentator died of pleural mesothelioma on March 11, 2010. Olsen was diagnosed in 2009 in the later stages of the disease. He underwent three courses of chemotherapy before his passing.
Olsen filed a lawsuit in December 2009 against NBC Studios, NBC Universal, and 20th Century Fox claiming they exposed him to asbestos, which caused his mesothelioma. Olsen also named Sherwin Williams and Lennox Industries in the suit, as he had worked at a job involving drywall when he was young.