The celebrity prostate cancer line-up … and what they actually say

What celebs say and don’t say about prostate cancer (if they say anything at all) has often been difficult for the average patient to understand — as are some of their apparent treatment decisions (if those are actually mentioned).

In his latest contribution to the MedPage Today web site, Howard Wolinsky has looked very specifically at what a spectrum of celebrities have said about having prostate cancer in recent years and tried to understand the motivations behind what was and was not being said. It’s interesting — but complicated for all sorts of reasons that may not be relevant to your average “prostate cancer patient in the street”.

One “celebrity” who is not mentioned by Howard, but who was very “open” about his prostate cancer and his decision-making process was Andy Grove, a former CEO of Intel Corp., who became the early “poster child” for low-dose brachytherapy back in 1996 (see here and here: but the latter requires a subscription to the Wall Street Journal). Mr. Grove died in 2016 at the age of 79 years after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2000. His obituary in the New York Times doesn’t mention a cause of death.

Another celebrity not mentioned by Howard is the rather obvious Michael Milken — the founder and chairman of the Prostate Cancer Foundation. We know that Mr. Milken was diagnosed in 1993 (at age 46) with what appears to have been an advanced or at least a relatively high-risk form of prostate cancer, and that he is still alive and well today at age 72 (although he was originally told he had 12 to 18 months to live). We also know that his PSA level was about 24 ng/ml at diagnosis. But, as with many others, we don’t know the precise details of his original diagnosis or exactly how he has been treated over time.

Something that Howard does raise in his article is the potential value to the prostate cancer community of a celebrity spokesperson who is on active surveillance for relatively low-risk prostate cancer. We agree with Howard that such a celebrity could have great value … but we would also point out that Howard has a hypothetical “conflict of interest” here since he is himself a patient on active surveillance  — albeit, perhaps, not quite a “celebrity” (yet) — but see here … maybe he will be soon!

4 Responses

  1. Thanks for the mention, Mike. Never intended to list everyone who had prostate cancer. I pointed to a list of many more. The point was people on AS have few role models among the rich and famous. Grove and Milken were not secret patients. They were open about their disease, which is good, but they were not poster boys for AS. The fact I am on AS is hardly a secret either nor a conflict of interest since I am open.The point is some celebrities may be missing the boat on AS and none who may be on AS are using their celebrity to promote AS.

  2. I don’t blame celebrities one bit for keeping prostate cancer under wraps. The side effects of prostate cancer are terribly personal and sensitive. Do you really want people looking at you and wondering about your erectile dysfunction? Or incontinence? Or if you have testosterone? I wish my husband had kept quiet because I don’t want people to think about our (non-existent) sex life. It’s ridiculous to think a celebrity would feel any less private about it.

  3. Hi Howard. I think one of my points was that Milken and Grove did a lot of good as advocates for forms of care they believed in (brachytherapy in the case of Grove, and diet and lifestyle in the case of Milken, quite apart form his foundation of PCF).

    As I said in the article, I completely agree with you that it would be very helpful if there were a couple of “celebs” on AS who were as forthright about their doing this — even though we might not know all the details of their condition either.

  4. Mary hit the nail on the head, gentlemen.

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