Bob Dole's Cause Of Death Explained

Longtime Republican leader, former senator, and World War II veteran Bob Dole passed away at 98 on Sunday, as announced by the Elizabeth Dole Foundation. The former Presidential candidate's cause of death was not officially provided, though the Foundation stated that Dole had died in his sleep. In a statement, President Joe Biden described Dole "an American statesman like few in our history" and "a war hero and among the greatest of the Greatest Generation" (via the New York Times). 

In February 2021, Dole announced he had an advanced form of lung cancer. "Recently, I was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. My first treatment will begin Monday," he shared on Twitter. "While I certainly have some hurdles ahead, I also know that I join millions of Americans who face significant health challenges of their own." 

Based on data revolving around Americans and life-threatening illnesses, lung cancer is one of the more difficult illnesses to beat. According to statistics from the LUNGevity Foundation, 1 in 16 people will get a lung cancer diagnosis within their lifetime, with a new diagnosis coming every 2.2 minutes in the United States. Lung cancer is among the deadliest cancer diagnoses, accounting for 22% of all cancer deaths. Lung cancer plays no favorites with gender or ethnicity, as anyone can be affected. Research shows, however, that your risk of getting the disease can dramatically increase if you are a smoker or former smoker.

Bob Dole questioned how addictive smoking was

While it is unknown if the former senator ever took up smoking, he had made his controversial views about the addictiveness of smoking public in the past. "Are they addictive? Maybe — they probably are addictive. I don't know. I'm not a doctor. You shouldn't smoke," he said during a 1996 debate held at the University of San Diego in California (via the Commission on Presidential Debates). He also asserted this belief in a letter to former surgeon general Dr. C. Everett Koop: "My personal observations are that for some people [tobacco] is addictive, and for others it may not be" (per the New York Times).

So, what makes lung cancer more deadly than other cancer diagnoses? The National Foundation for Cancer Research points out that lung cancer is often diagnosed in its more advanced stages. In addition, there are some cancer cells in the lungs that are resistant to chemotherapy, and there are hardly any other options for alternative treatments.

During an interview with CBS News in May 2021, Dole updated the public on his progress, saying his treatment for stage four lung cancer was going well. "I don't intend to go quietly," he said, "but that's up to a higher level. I want to try to make 100."