Roger Moore: Bond star was plagued by health issues before death – ‘told I could die’

Octopussy: Roger Moore stars as James Bond in 1983 trailer

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In a statement announcing the news of his death, Moore’s family said: “It is with a heavy heart that we must announce our loving father, Sir Roger Moore, has passed away today in Switzerland after a short but brave battle with cancer.” With no indication as to what type of cancer the seven-time Bond playing actor suffered from, it has since been speculated that it was either lung or liver cancer. Even before his final battle with cancer, Moore was told by medical professionals that he could “die at any time”, due to his previous ailments, but somehow managed to cheat death a whopping four times.

“There is nothing glamorous about death,” Moore became famous for saying, and he would know more than most, as he nearly first lost his life as a young boy of five when he contracted double pneumonia.

“I was too ill to be moved to a hospital,” he is reported to have said in a throwback interview.

“The doctor had said to my father, who was about 27 and my mother 25, ‘I’ll be round in the morning but prepare your wife. I’ll be coming to sign a death certificate.'”

Double pneumonia is a term often used in America, and describes when the infection has spread to both of the lungs. Similar to a chest infection or flu, pneumonia can severely affect even the healthiest of people, making them feel “weak, tired and generally unwell”.

Despite a murky prognosis, Moore survived the night, and went on to live his childhood relatively healthy, until disaster struck again in the early 1990s.

After gaining international fame as 007 in the 1970s, Moore continued to act, appearing in numerous other films, television programmes and advertisements. He was also honoured as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 1991 as a bid to match his friend Audrey Hepburn’s humanitarian work.

But away from the spotlight, in 1993 Moore was diagnosed with prostate cancer, a disease that continues to affect around 52,000 individuals still to this day.

Symptoms of prostate cancer tend not to appear until the prostate is large enough to affect the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the urethra, according to the NHS. This makes the disease sometimes hard to diagnose, until it is in its later, and less easily treatable stage.

Due to this the NHS encourages men to have regular prostate screenings in order to catch the disease early. This can be done through a number of tests including a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, which measures the level of PSA and may help detect early prostate cancer. And a digital rectal exam (DRE) where a doctor physically feels the prostate.

In addition, if an individual notices any of the following symptoms, they are encouraged to seek medical advice:

  • An increased need to pee
  • Straining while you pee
  • A feeling that your bladder has not fully emptied.

For Moore, prostate cancer completely changed his outlook on life, and after the physical removal of his prostate gland, in a procedure known as a radical prostatectomy, he overcame his lengthy battle with the disease.

But the actor’s battle with cancer was far from won. In 2012, the actor admitted that he “regretted” basking in the sun as a young man – as he went on to suffer from a string of skin cancers in his later years.

He has said in the past: “I (wish I) would… have given myself a warning about having too much sunshine. I’ve had so many skin cancers as a result.

“No one thought about sun screen or creams in my younger days. Even when they started to give warnings, I thought, ‘Well, that won’t happen to me.’ I would get sunburned so I did not have to wear make-up in front of the cameras. Every leading man was sunburned.”

From prostate cancer and skin cancer, in 2013 the star was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, a common but life-long condition that causes the level of sugar (glucose) in the blood to become too high.

The NHS explains that the condition is caused by problems with insulin, which helps glucose enter cells to be turned into energy. Unlike type 1 diabetes, the onset of the condition is often linked to being overweight or inactive, or having a family history of type 2 diabetes.

It can cause symptoms such as excessive thirst, needing to pee a lot and tiredness. It can also increase an individual’s risk of getting serious problems with your eyes, heart and nerves. These are known as diabetes complications. The condition left the former Bond actor “unable to drink Martini’s” – ironic for the fictional spy who popularised the drink.

When on stage back in 2003, Moore collapsed in a frightening incident which saw him later diagnosed with a “lethal slow heartbeat”. Reflecting on the ordeal, Moore once said: “I went to say my line at the end of the dance and then I thought: ‘Where’s the air gone’? I heard a bang, which was my head hitting the stage as I fell headfirst, but luckily my skull was protected by the huge wig I was wearing.”

He added: “I was told I could die at any time and that I must have a life-saving cardiac pacemaker inserted the very next day.”

Pacemakers are small electrical devices that significantly improve the quality of life of those who have problems with a slow heart rate. Controlled by electrical signals, the device is usually implanted in a relatively straightforward process.

Moore can be seen acting in Escape to Athena, which is airing on BBC Two at 2pm today (Sunday, May 22).

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