Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh died Wednesday. He was 70. The best-selling author was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer last year.
Limbaugh was born in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. His first job was at age 16, when he began working for KGMO, a local radio station. He bounced around for almost 20 years before landing his first syndicated radio deal.
In the 1970s and ’80s, Limbaugh worked at various stations across the country, including McKeesport, Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Missouri, and Sacramento, California.
Hired by ABC Radio in July 1988, Limbaugh launched The Rush Limbaugh Show on WABC. He remained there until 2014 when the show moved to rival WOR.
Limbaugh also had several personal issues that were public fodder. He became almost entirely deaf in 2001 and had a cochlear implant. In 2003, during a brief stint as an NFL commentator with ESPN, he made remarks about Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb that had racial overtones; Limbaugh resigned in the wake of the controversy. Later in 2003, he admitted to pain medication addiction. In 2006, Limbaugh was arrested for prescription fraud. His record was expunged.
Limbaugh’s fourth wife, Kathryn, announced the death of her husband on his radio show Wednesday. “Losing a loved one is terribly difficult, even more so when that loved one is larger than life,” she said. “Rush will forever be the greatest of all time.”
Limbaugh became an influential media figure with The Rush Limbaugh Show, which began on national syndication with 56 radio stations. Ultimately, the show aired on more than 600 stations. Deemed “the most listened-to radio show in the United States,” according to the show’s website, up to 27 million people tuned in each week.
After announcing the Stage IV lung cancer diagnosis in January 2020, President Trump awarded Limbaugh the Presidential Medal of Freedom days later at the State of the Union.
The leading cancer killer in the U.S.
According to the American Lung Association, lung cancer is the leading cancer killer in both men and women in the United States. However, the number of deaths caused by lung cancer peaked at 159,292 in 2005 and has since decreased. The death rate for lung cancer is higher for men (46.7 per 100,000) than for women (31.9).
Worldwide, lung cancer accounts for more than 2 million new cases annually. Most living lung cancer patients are elderly – in 2015, 86% were 60 years of age or older – and were diagnosed within the last five years.
The five-year survival rate for lung cancer is 18.6%, lower than many other leading cancer types. If the tumor is localized (still in the lungs), the five-year survival rate is 56%.
Still, just 16% of lung cancer cases are diagnosed at an early stage. If cancer has metastasized (spread to other organs), the five-year survival rate is only 5%. More than half of people with lung cancer die within one year of being diagnosed.