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Men and women diagnosed with lung cancer

Nat King Cole

Musician and singer Cole smoked up to three packs of cigarettes a day because he believed it gave his singing voice a rich sound.

After he was diagnosed with lung cancer in December 1964, he vowed to his wife that if he recovered he would go on television to urge people to stop smoking. However, three weeks after his entire left lung was surgically removed, Cole died in February 1965 at age 45.

Duke Ellington

When musician and composer Duke Ellington, a lifelong smoker, was hospitalized for influenza in January 1974, doctors found that lung cancer had spread through both his lungs. He died four months later at age 75. 

Jesse Owens

Three years after his historic performance at the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany, Jesse Owens became a lifetime smoker and later a promoter of smoking to the Black community.

Owens developed an extremely aggressive and drug-resistant type of lung cancer and died in 1980 at age 66.


Annette lives in New York and is the mother of three. By the time she turned 20, Annette was a regular smoker. When she was 50, Annette finally heeded her granddaughter’s pleading and quit cold turkey after having smoked for more than 30 years. But it was too late.

At 52, Annette went to the doctor because she was having difficulty breathing. “It took multiple doctor visits, all kinds of X-rays, and then a PET/CT scan to uncover lung cancer,”  she says. The cancer was so advanced that it was necessary to remove one of her lungs.

Today, Annette is cancer-free, enjoys spending time with her loved ones, and lends support to smoking cessation groups.  “I talk to the smokers and let them know that this can happen to you.”

Source: “Annette S.’s Story” on the CDC website.

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