Did Roy Castle contract lung cancer from passive smoking?

Roy Castle was a much loved entertainer who was the host of Record Breakers,  Jazz musician and appeared in Carry On Up The Khyber. He tragically died from lung cancer at the age of 61 and in the last years of his life went on a ‘Tour of Hope’  which inspired the  Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation (RCLCF).  It is the UK’s only lung cancer charity.

It is viewed by many that he contracted lung cancer from passive smoking after working in smoky clubs at the start of his career.  Some eye witnesses state he was a cigar smoker. I have phoned up the RCLCF for clarification and have never had a reply so I wrote to Dr. Rosemary Gillespie who is the Chief Executive  asking for clarification.

It appears from the exchange that they cannot confirm that Roy Castle was a cigar smoker and more importantly do not claim the cause is passive smoking.

The emails are in chronological order.

“Dear Dr. Gillespie,

I hope you are well.

I have posed this question on public forums and have yet to receive a response, so I thought I would like appraoch you directly. Also can you confirm that Roy Castle was or was not a smoker, I understand he liked a cigar from time to time.

Does the Roy Castle Lung Foundation claim that he died of lung cancer (LC) from second hand smoke (SHS)?

If so what form of lung cancer did he die of? Adenocarcinoma, non small cell etc? There are over 30 other causes of LC in non smokers were these possibilities ever followed up?

Also and most importantly was a genetic test done on him? LC in smokers and non smokers is a completely different aetiology (causation). In non smokers it is a mutation of the EGFR or GPC5 genes, while in smokers it is a specific mutation of the p53 gene called a guanine to thymine transversion, caused by ingestion of benzo(a)pyrene a 5 ring benzene molecule and is a Group1 carcinogen.

“The fact that the mutation spectrum of the p53 tumor suppressor gene in lung tumors of ETS-exposed nonsmokers generally differs from that found in tumors of active smokers lends additional support to the notion that the majority of tumors found in ETS-exposed nonsmokers have nothing to do with tobacco smoke. The one-sided preoccupation with ETS as a causative factor of lung cancer in nonsmokers may seriously hinder the elucidation of the multifactorial etiology of these tumors…..This goal can be achieved, however, without the introduction of an extremist legislation based on a negligible risk of lung cancer as well as an unsupported and highly hypothetical risk for CHD.”

Until we have these questions answered you have no right to say that Roy Castle did not die from passive smoking.


Dear Mr Atherton,


Thank you for your e mail. Your comments have been noted.


Roy Castle was an avid campaigner against lung cancer and  devoted the last month’s of his life to raising money to build a research centre to tackle the disease.


It would not be appropriate for me to respond to your request to provide confidential medical information about the health records of Roy Castle.


You refer in your e mail to a rather dated study (2001). Far more recent information is found in the study published this year by the WHO that highlights that 600,000 lives are lost each year worldwide as a result of second hand smoke.


I hope you find this information informative.

Kind regards,


Dr Rosemary Gillespie
Chief Executive

The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation
4 – 6 Enterprise Way
Wavertree Technology Park


Merseyside  L13 1FB
0151 254 7206


Dear Dr. Gillepsie,

Thanks you for your reply.

As I have long suspected that the anti smoking lobby are not evidence based and hide behind a smokescreen of spin.

You know full well the WHO is just plucking figures out of the air and their own paper in 1998 by Boffetta is actual proof that ETS/SHS does not cause LC and heart disease. I read it in detail, I usually just use the extract and out of 20 RRs and CIs only 2 were statistically significant and one of those 0.78 for childhood exposure was protective and the other harmful.

If you want an up to date paper on the different genetic mutations here is one from 24th September 2009 from Dr. Hellend a Norwegian geneticist.

“A number of molecular and clinical characteristics differ between lung cancer related to tobacco use and those not related to tobacco use. 62 % of lung cancers among never-smokers are adenocarcinomas and 18 % are squamous cell carcinomas, while corresponding numbers among patients who smoke are 19 % and 53 %. The K-Ras-gene is often mutated in tumours from smokers, but seldom in tumours from non-smokers; whereas the EGFR-gene is mutated in tumours from non-smokers, and not in smokers. Also, age and sex distribution, therapy response and prognosis are shown to differ between the groups.
INTERPRETATION: Lung cancer in never-smokers should probably be regarded as a different disease-entity than smoking-induced lung cancer. This could impact prognosis as well as treatment.” (1)

Then of course you have the 2003….erm, ……..WHO/IARC paper (2) “In 1998, Pierre Hainaut and his collaborators at IARC analyzed the mutations in lung cancers that were at the time in the IARC p53 database. They found that the positions of damage by benzo(a)pyrene spotted by Pfeifer and his team were frequently the sites of mutations in lung cancers of smokers but rarely in lung cancers of non-smokers.”

Yes it is the WHO/IARC who say that the diseases are a different aetiology and led me to research more. The reason they produced the paper was to prove that active smoking caused LC to refute tobacco companies view that it did not. However the IARC has been hoist by its own petard.

So you are refusing to answer questions on whether he smoked and whether a genetic study was done. I guess that he did and if a study does exist it backs me up.

What I find most disgusting about the anti tobacco movement is the way, frankly they are prepared to mislead. This does nobody any good and respect for doctors and scientists will diminish.  Most importantly as Dr. Jerome Arnett wrote in 2008 if like current quotes “Millions of dollars have been spent promoting belief in SHS as a killer, and more millions of dollars have been spent by businesses in order to comply with thousands of highly restrictive bans, while personal choice and freedom have been denied to millions of smokers. Finally, and perhaps most tragically, all this has diverted resources away from discovering the true cause(s) of lung cancer in nonsmokers.”

I look forward to your reply.


Dave Atherton

1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19844277

2. http://www-p53.iarc.fr/download/tobacco.pdf

3. http://www.heartland.org/policybot/results/23399/Scientific_Evidence_Shows_Secondhand_Smoke_Is_No_Danger.html

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3 Responses to Did Roy Castle contract lung cancer from passive smoking?

  1. Rollo Tommasi says:

    Hi Dave, hope you’re well.

    I have to say, you really are the master of the Zombie Argument! You make claims, these claims are refuted, you can’t defend your position. So what do you do? You simply retreat, wait a while, and then repeat those very same claims at a later point, as if nothing had ever happened! Do you really believe that stating your dodgy claims again makes them any less wrong?

    Once again you’re claiming the “paper in 1998 by Boffetta is actual proof that ETS/SHS does not cause LC and heart disease”. I challenged you to back up this claim a few weeks ago, after you said it in the CNN debate. You were unable to defend your position then. In fact, one of your more recent columns you’ve backtracked a bit, by saying there is “no proof that passive smoking is harmful”.

    The same goes for your argument about aetiology and genetic mutations. You claimed in a recent post (“The World Health Organization/International Agency for Research on Cancer, do they have enough rope?”) that research shows the type of genetic mutation for smokers doesn’t happen for non-smokers. But your interpretation of that study has been shown to be wholly wrong. Yet here you are again, claiming that the aetiology for smokers and non-smokers is different, as if the G to T transversion only happens to smokers!

    And then, if that were not bad enough, you cite Jerome Arnett as an authoritative source! Really? His article is tainted nonsense, as comments I previously put against that article exemplify.

    So what are you going to do now? Are you going to answer these points? Are you going to consider them and reappraise your own opinion? Or are you simply going to ignore these points, so you can blindly repeat your empty claims some other time in the future?

  2. Pat Nurse says:

    “Do you really believe that stating your dodgy claims again makes them any less wrong?” 600,000 killed by passive smoking a year …? Seems you believe repeated dodgy claims Rollo as long as they back up your own beliefs and prejudices.

    Keep up the good work Dave. You must be doing something right for Rollo to keep attacking you. I wonder what his link to the anti-smoker industry is and why on another post he does insist on spin and misinformation himself claiming you are pro-smoking. Pro-truth would be more accurate.

    • Rollo Tommasi says:

      Pat Nurse – The test is this. Is Dave able to justify his claims? He’s made them before, but he’s ducked when challenged. What does that tell you about the strength of his arguments and his “pro-truth” credentials?

      Similarly, if you disagree with any points I have made, you are of course welcome to challenge these. Your failure to do so speaks volumes.

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