diseases / medical conditions 17 Celebrities Who Were Diagnosed with Cancer Before the Age of 40  

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According to the American Cancer Society, “More than one million people in the United States get cancer each year.” It’s especially shocking when the diagnosis comes at an early age. Cancer doesn't discriminate, and many celebrities have been diagnosed with cancer before 40. Fortunately, it seems that more and more people are opting to be open about their diagnosis and treatment in an effort to raise awareness. While celebrities often seek to keep their personal lives out of the public eye, a cancer diagnosis is something that many have chosen to reveal to try to help others.

Which famous people were diagnosed with cancer at a young age? TV stars like Michael C. Hall and Christina Applegate both had cancer in their thirties, while Tom Green and Lance Armstrong were diagnosed while still in their twenties. Though some of these celebrities are now cancer-free, others weren't so lucky, leaving behind great work. Read on for the stories of these famous people who had cancer young and how they're doing today.

Michael C. Hall is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list 17 Celebrities Who Were Diagnosed with Cancer Before the Age of 40
Photo:  uploaded by Sara Lugardo

There aren’t many actors who can boast the same television success Michael C. Hall can. From being on the hit HBO series, Six Feet Under, to playing the most likable serial killer on TV on Dexter, Hall has been uncommonly lucky in his acting choices. It wasn't quite as smooth sailing in his personal life; in January 2010 Hall, age 38, revealed he was being treated for Hodgkin’s lymphoma. After undergoing chemotherapy, Hall was officially in remission by late April 2010.

Hall addressed his thoughts on battling cancer with a January 2016 interview with The Guardian stating, “When people go get chemo, they’re not injecting themselves with will – I have lost various loved ones to cancer, and I certainly don’t feel that I am any stronger or braver than them.”

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Age: 46

Birthplace: Raleigh, North Carolina, United States of America

Profession: Television producer, Film Producer, Actor, Voice acting

Medical Conditions: Hodgkin's lymphoma

Credits: Dexter, Six Feet Under, Gamer, Paycheck

Also Ranked

#24 on The Best TV Actors of All Time

#13 on The Greatest Actors Who Have Never Won an Emmy (for Acting)

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Bob Marley is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list 17 Celebrities Who Were Diagnosed with Cancer Before the Age of 40
Photo: Jeso Carneiro/flickr/CC-BY-NC 2.0

Bob Marley is one of the most famous musicians to come from Jamaica and is credited with bringing reggae music into the mainstream . In 1977 he was diagnosed with malignant melanoma in one of his toes, but disregarded his doctor’s order to amputate.

Ultimately, cancer had spread throughout his body to his brain and lungs and the singer died at the age of 36 in 1981. His last words - said to his son, Ziggy, at the now-University of Miami Hospital - were, “Money can’t buy life.”

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Age: Died at 36 (1945-1981)

Birthplace: Nine Mile, Jamaica, Jamaica

Profession: Guitarist, Songwriter, Musician, Singer

Medical Conditions: Melanoma

Credits: In the Name of the Father, La Haine, Shark Tale, I Am Legend

Also Ranked

#32 on The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time

#78 on The Best Rock Vocalists

#50 on The Best Singers of All Time

#52 on Rank the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame Inductees

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Mark Ruffalo is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list 17 Celebrities Who Were Diagnosed with Cancer Before the Age of 40
Photo: Michael Zero Mayer/flickr/CC-BY 2.0

Mark Ruffalo is a highly respected actor with the unique ability to act in everything from mainstream blockbuster roles, like The Avengers film series, to smaller TV portrayals, like in The Normal Heart. Regardless of how big the film or how small the audience, Ruffalo has proven he has a special talent that can’t be denied.

Another of his unique abilities is apparently seeking out help after having bad dreams - or at least that's what happened when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2000, at age 33. In a 2013 interview with the Acoustic Neuroma Association, Ruffalo recounted how he sought help from a set doctor and said, “Listen, I really had a scary dream last night and you’ll probably think I’m crazy but um… But I think I have a brain tumor and I would really like to get it uh… checked out.” Ruffalo made a full recovery.

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Age: 49

Birthplace: Kenosha, Wisconsin, United States of America

Profession: Film Producer, Screenwriter, Actor, Film Director

Medical Conditions: Brain cancer

Credits: Shutter Island, The Avengers, Spotlight, Now You See Me

Also Ranked

#47 on The Best Actors Working Today

#52 on The Best American Actors Working Today

#60 on The Greatest Actors Who Have Never Won an Oscar (for Acting)

#44 on Famous Men You'd Want to Have a Beer With

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Giuliana Rancic is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list 17 Celebrities Who Were Diagnosed with Cancer Before the Age of 40
Photo: Helga Esteb/Shutterstock

Giuliana Rancic is a celebrated television personality best known for her work on the red carpet and on E!’s Fashion Police. At 36 years old, Rancic was diagnosed with breast cancer; fans saw some of her struggles on Giuliana and Bill, the reality series she shared with her husband.

Rancic defended her decision to have a double mastectomy on TODAY by saying, “If I had chosen to just do another lumpectomy and then do radiation and then do anti-estrogen therapy, which means two to five years of medication, that basically puts me into early menopause, then I would have to put off having a baby for several years.” The couple welcomed their first child, Edward Duke Rancic, in 2012 via a surrogate.

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Age: 42

Birthplace: Naples, Italy

Profession: Journalist, Television producer, Actor, TV Personality

Medical Conditions: Breast cancer

Credits: E! News^! Fashion Police^! Giuliana & Bill^! Paparazzi

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Cynthia Nixon is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list 17 Celebrities Who Were Diagnosed with Cancer Before the Age of 40
Photo:  uploaded by Sara Lugardo

Best known for her role as Miranda Hobbes in the Sex and the City series, Cynthia Nixon was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002 when she was 36 years old. Although she was still filming the HBO series when she was diagnosed, Nixon chose to keep her diagnosis a secret to avoid increased scrutiny by the paparazzi.

After undergoing a lumpectomy and radiation treatment, Nixon chose to share her story to help inspire others and even became an ambassador for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation in 2008. In a 2008 interview with ABC News, Nixon advocated early diagnosis by stating, “So the only thing to really be afraid of is if you don’t get your mammograms, because there’s some part of you that doesn’t want to know, and that’s the thing that’s going to trip you up.”

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Age: 51

Birthplace: New York City, New York, United States of America

Profession: Actor, Voice acting

Medical Conditions: Breast cancer

Credits: Sex and the City, Sex and the City, Amadeus, Sex and the City 2

Also Ranked

#67 on The Best Female Broadway Stars of the 21st Century

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Lance Armstrong is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list 17 Celebrities Who Were Diagnosed with Cancer Before the Age of 40
Photo:  uploaded by Sara Lugardo

After years of denial, Lance Armstrong admitted to Oprah Winfrey on the OWN network in 2013 that he indeed used performance-enhancing drugs as a cyclist and was ultimately stripped of his Olympic medal and Tour de France titles. While these accolades have been taken from him, no one can deny the good he has done for cancer survivors after founding the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

Diagnosed in 1996, at the age of 25, Armstrong had stage three testicular cancer that spread to his brain, lungs, and abdomen. He became a champion for the cause and was officially in remission by February 1997.

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Age: 45

Profession: Athlete, Professional Road Racing Cyclist

Medical Conditions: Testicular cancer

Credits: DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story, You, Me and Dupree

Also Ranked

#7 on Athletes Who Spark the Most Fan Arguments

#27 on Athletes Who Should Get a Reality Show

#31 on The Celebrities You Most Want To See Play Survivor

#3 on The Most Controversial Athletes in Sports History

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Christina Applegate is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list 17 Celebrities Who Were Diagnosed with Cancer Before the Age of 40
Photo:  uploaded by Sara Lugardo

Christina Applegate was first introduced to audiences as Kelly Bundy on the hit series, Married… with Children, but has since gone on to become hugely successful, both in television and on the big screen. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, at age 36, and underwent a prophylactic double mastectomy. In a 2011 interview with People magazine, Applegate credited the birth of her daughter, Sadie Grace, with helping her to see beyond her breast cancer diagnosis. Rather than constantly talking about and focusing on cancer, her child became the new focus. Applegate stated, “She’s healed me in so many ways.”

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Age: 45

Birthplace: Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, United States of America

Profession: Television producer, Actor, Voice acting

Medical Conditions: Breast cancer

Credits: Married with Children, Up All Night, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Vacation

Also Ranked

#77 on The Best American Actresses Working Today

#17 on The Greatest Former Child Stars

#23 on The Greatest '80s Teen Stars

#12 on The Greatest '90s Teen Stars

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Tom Green is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list 17 Celebrities Who Were Diagnosed with Cancer Before the Age of 40
Photo:  uploaded by Sara Lugardo

When Tom Green was first introduced to audiences through the MTV series The Tom Green Show, people didn’t quite know what to make of his specific style of comedy. Ultimately, his relationship with Drew Barrymore, and a handful of legitimate acting roles helped to boost his status in Hollywood.

In 2000, at the peak of his popularity, Green (then 29) was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Green used his popularity to bring awareness to the disease through humor, whether it was The Tom Green Cancer Special, his song “Feel Your Balls,” or the Tom Green’s Nuts Cancer Fund.

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Age: 45

Birthplace: Pembroke, Canada

Profession: Film Score Composer, Rapper, Comedian, Television producer Film Producer, + more

Medical Conditions: Testicular cancer

Credits: The Tom Green Show, Subway Monkey Hour, Tom Green: Something Smells Funny, Tom Green: Tonsil Hockey

Also Ranked

#33 on The Funniest Canadian Comics & Actors of All Time

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