Famous People Who Have Died From Mesothelioma

The list of famous people who have died from mesothelioma is extremely long. A lack of funding, research and public awareness resulted from lung cancer being reported as the cause for these types of deaths before the true cause became recently well-known. Mesothelioma is caused by asbestos exposure, not smoking, and it does not simply fit within the narrow definition of lung cancer.


Merlin Olsen

Despite his great physical ability on the football field, the asbestos exposure Merlin Olsen experienced working construction as a young man caught up with him in 2009. Settlements were reached with NBC and Universal following his death in 2010.

Steve McQueen

Perhaps the most famous death resulting from mesothelioma, at the time of his death Steve McQueen was misreported as dying from lung cancer. This proved a major setback in mesothelioma awareness.

Paul Gleason

Paul Gleason

Paul Gleason (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Star of The Breakfast Club, Paul Gleason was another famous person exposed to asbestos at a young age while working on various construction sites. He died in 2006.

Malcolm McLaren

This celebrity who founded the Sex Pistols was diagnosed in 2009 with peritoneal mesothelioma, dying just a year later. His exposure was traced to altering the ceiling of his London boutique.

Ed Lauter

This famous character actor died only five months after being diagnosed with mesothelioma in May of 2013.

Sean Sasser

Accomplished pastry chef and star of MTV’s The Real World: San Francisco, Sean Sasser succumbed to mesothelioma in 2013.


The lesson to be learned from the huge number of famous people who have died from mesothelioma is that the disease needs greater exposure. For every famous person who has died, there are certainly countless other non-famous individuals who have died as well. Though only use for a few decades in the construction of many materials, asbestos exposure was widespread and its effects are still being felt to this day. Fortunately the disease is understood much better today, but greater awareness is still needed.