European Asbestos Forum

The incurable asbestos related cancer, mesothelioma, does not discriminate on who it affects. There does not seem to be any pattern for those it hits and those it does not. For example, a worker who was exposed to asbestos all day, every day for 20 years might escape this insidious disease and yet his wife, who washed his asbestos covered work clothes could develop the devastating disease in later life.

Perhaps the most famous mesothelioma sufferer was Hollywood actor, Steve McQueen. In 1978 McQueen developed a persistent cough and as we see with many of our own clients, doctors prescribed antibiotics but they did nothing to help. Over the next year his condition worsened and he began suffering with shortness of breath. After x-rays showed there might be a problem with his lungs, McQueen underwent a lung biopsy which sadly showed that he had developed pleural mesothelioma.

The doctors told McQueen that mesothelioma was not curable and at the time, it was not even treatable. He was advised that surgery was not an option and that chemotherapy did not really work and he should go and make the most of the time he had left. Despite this, he did attempt to try chemotherapy but when he was told how potent it was he decided against it.

Undeterred by the poor prognosis from US doctors, McQueen pursued holistic therapies. He travelled to Mexico where Dr William Kelley, a dentist who had had his licence revoked, established a clinic. Kelley made claims that he had cured cancer patients and McQueen was willing to give his methods a shot. The treatment included drinking vegetable drinks and calf liver blood as well as receiving coffee enemas.

Unfortunately, McQueen’s mesothelioma was spreading. It is believed it started around the lining of his lungs in the form of the pleural type of the disease, but less than a year after he was diagnosed, the cancer had spread to his abdomen, known as peritoneal mesothelioma, causing his stomach to be distended. He wished to undergo surgery to remove the tumours from his abdomen but no US doctors were willing to operate on him as he was too weak. McQueen returned to Mexico where he had found a surgeon who would operate. Although he survived the surgery, he sadly died the next day on 7th November 1980, less than one year after he had been diagnosed with mesothelioma. He was just 50 years of age.

For many, mesothelioma and other asbestos related conditions are seen as a working man’s disease. So many of our clients have spent all their lives working hard to look after their families only to be struck down with mesothelioma decades later, when they should be enjoying their retirement. People may wonder where Steve McQueen, the King of Cool, came into contact with asbestos.

McQueen joined the merchant marines at the age of 16. At this time ships were covered in asbestos and he would have been exposed to asbestos from lagged pipes throughout the ships, including in the boiler room. He would also have been exposed to asbestos when he served in the Marine Corps and had to strip asbestos lagging from pipes. In addition to his time onboard ships, McQueen was exposed to asbestos, present in protective helmets and suits and brake linings of cars when he was racing. Asbestos was also used by film studios due to its fire retardant qualities and in particular for used stunts and other used such as artificial snow.

Whilst there are many ways in which Steve McQueen was exposed to asbestos, shockingly, it can only take one instance of exposure to develop asbestos related mesothelioma in later life.

Mesothelioma can affect anyone who has been exposed to asbestos. It does not care who you are, how much money you have, if you are famous or even if you have not worked with asbestos yourself.

If you require assistance in pursuing a mesothelioma claim or believe you have any other potential claim for asbestos disease compensation please contact us today on our freephone number 0800 038 6767. Alternatively, head over to the ‘Contact Us’ page, complete the form and we will be in touch.

Share Button