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Mr. 80 Percent

Notable men with prostate cancer

Plenty of well-known people have suffered or even died from the disease — and mostly in silence.

Among the famous men who've been treated for prostate cancer: Ken Griffey Sr., Ben Stiller, Dennis Hopper, Colin Powell, and Robert De Niro.From left to right: Andy Lyons /Allsport; Richard Shotwell/AP; Mark Mainz/Getty Images; KAZUHIRO NOGI/Getty Images; Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP

Men who had prostate cancer.”

That’s what Ben Stiller says he Googled immediately after being diagnosed with the disease. I did the same thing.

Other than my father, I knew of only one person who’d been treated for prostate cancer, and that was Frank Zappa, the iconoclastic guitarist/bandleader whose deeply weird records my brother used to play.

Zappa was just 52 when he succumbed to prostate cancer in 1993, and I remember thinking, What the hell!

That was it. Not only did I know nothing about the disease or its treatment, I couldn’t name anyone who had it. I quickly learned there are plenty of well-known men who’ve suffered and/or died from the disease and — prostate cancer being prostate cancer — mostly did so in silence.


A partial list of prominent men who have been treated for the disease includes actors Robert De Niro, Mandy Patinkin, Ian McKellen, and Ryan O’Neal; politicians John Kerry and Jerry Brown; former secretary of state Colin Powell; singer Harry Belafonte; bassist Phil Lesh; and former baseball players Joe Torre and Ken Griffey Sr.

Notable men who’ve died from prostate cancer include actors Dennis Hopper, Gary Cooper, Jerry Orbach, Telly Savalas, and Bill Bixby; guitarist Johnny Ramone; poet Langston Hughes; psychologist Timothy Leary; activist Stokely Carmichael; former president of France François Mitterrand; baseball player Ty Cobb; and talk show host Merv Griffin.

Mark Shanahan can be reached at mark.shanahan@globe.com. Follow him @MarkAShanahan.