Richards Turns 77, Taking Steps That Reduce Cancer Risk
- The notorious rock star has quit smoking and dramatically reduced his drinking to protect his health after bandmate Ronnie Wood’s lung cancer diagnosis in 2017.
- Smoking is responsible for 80% of lung cancer cases; quitting is the fastest way to reduce your risk.
- Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in America, but new treatments could mean a brighter future for those fighting.
Richards, who wrote many of the Stones‘ number-one hits, shared a throwback photo of himself and close friend Bobby Keys. The two share a birthday and Keys played sax on many classic songs, including “Brown Sugar”. Keys passed away after a long battle with liver cancer in 2014.
Here’s one for Bob! Happy Birthday to us…. KeithRead More
(1979) pic.twitter.com/h4YMXkZ0bw— Keith Richards (@officialKeef) December 18, 2020
Keys isn’t the only member of the band to battle cancer: guitarist Ronnie Wood was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2017 and underwent three months of treatment before going into remission.
Richards himself is taking steps that will also reduce his risk for lung cancer. He went two years without alcohol, saying, “I pulled the plug on it. I got fed up with it.” And while he chainsmoked since his teenage years, he announced in February that he has quit completely. This follows earlier cold-turkey efforts that kick heroine, cocaine, and other drug habits.
Richards’ lifestyle change comes after nearly every member of the band faced serious health challenges. Drummer Charlie Watts was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2004, which he attributed to decades of smoking. Mick Jagger, the band’s lead singer, underwent emergency heart surgery last year.
“Not that we didn’t before, but now we’re, like you say, more conscious of… surviving, how lucky we are,” Wood told LouderSound. “With my recent scare and Mick’s scare, Charlie not so long ago, Keith not so long ago, there was a lot of shit going down.”
Smoking and Lung Cancer
Richards’ hard-partying lifestyle may have dramatically increased his risk for lung cancer, but his recent decisions to cut back on smoking and drinking will help reduce the likelihood he contracts the disease.
Smoking is by far the leading cause of lung cancer: 80% of cases are directly caused by tobacco consumption. Even worse, smokers who don’t quit after being diagnosed are far more likely to suffer severe complications, like pneumonia, from lung cancer surgery.
But smoking doesn’t just put you at a higher risk for cancer. Thousands of non-smokers who have been exposed to secondhand smoke are diagnosed with lung cancer every year, and your loved ones may be at higher risk of contracting the disease by inhaling your smoke.
“If you’re smoking, stop,” Dr. Joseph Friedberg, the head of the Division of Thoracic Surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, told SurvivorNet in a previous interview. “That decreases your chance of getting a lung cancer. We don’t need the diagram for this. Basically, smoking causes mutations and so forth, and it’s a carcinogen, a substance that causes cancer. Just like asbestos or you know, certain metals and so forth.”
There is hope: quitting smoking can very rapidly decrease your risk and the risk for the people around you.
“You never return down all the way to the [level of] the person who never smoked as far as your risk of lung cancer goes,” Friedberg continued, “but it goes down with time.”
Quitting is easier said than done, and experts like Dr. Brendon Stiles understand that smoking is an addiction and work with you to help come up with a plan to quit while treating your cancer.
What to Know About Lung Cancer
Lung cancer is the second most common cancer and the leading cause of cancer death in America.
There are two main forms of lung cancer: non-small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer. Non-small cell lung cancers make up about 85% of all cases, and small cell lung cancers tend to grow faster and require a very different treatment approach. It’s so dangerous because it’s often not caught until it has already spread beyond the lungs.
Treatments have advanced substantially in recent decades, which should give you hope if you are facing this diagnosis. Surgical options and radiation treatments are more effective than ever with less harmful side effects. Immunotherapy and targeted treatments can also help you fight the disease and live a long and rewarding life.