Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu came from a very poor black family in South Africa during apartheid’s darkest hours to become Archbishop of Cape Town in 1985 at age 54. He led the movement to rid South Africa of its system of racial segregation and white minority rule. In that capacity, he had to fight incredible abuse:
• the whites who supported apartheid abused him,
• the white liberals thought that he was too aggressive in seeking reform,
• many black radicals accused him of being too moderate, and
• the Marxists hated his strong anti-communist views.
He stressed non-violent protest and foreign economic pressure to bring about “the most good for the most people” on just about every issue in which he was involved.
When he retired from being Archbishop in 1996, he said, “The struggle tended to make one abrasive and more than a touch self-righteous. I hope that people will forgive me any hurts I may have caused them.” Archbishop Tutu was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1997 at age 66, and he died of the disease at age 90, on December 26, 2021.
Rise to Prominence
Tutu was born in relative poverty in Klerksdorp, South Africa, was trained to be a teacher, married in 1955 at age 24 and had four children. In 1960, at age 29, he became an Anglican priest and at age 31, he studied theology at King’s College London. In 1966, at age 35, he returned to Africa to teach theology. In 1978, at age 47, he became general-secretary of the South African Council of Churches and was a leader in the movement to end racial segregation in South Africa.
• In 1974, he was called before two South African government ministers for advocating an economic boycott of South Africa.
• In 1980, The South African government confiscated his international passport.
• In 1984, he met with U.S. President Ronald Reagan and said that Reagan was a racist.
After he led a protest march, he was arrested, imprisoned and fined. That same year, he was a part of a group that met with government leaders to end apartheid and they were rebuked. Tutu responded by saying that “Moses went to Pharaoh repeatedly to secure the release of the Israelites.”
A Long Life of Activism
Tutu advocated economic pressures and at no time did he support racial violence. In 1990, anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela was released from prison and the two of them led the march to end racial segregation.
• Tutu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984.
• He criticized the first black South African president Thabo Mbeki for not doing enough to fight poverty, for the spread of AIDS with his public questioning of the link between HIV and AIDS, and for remaining silent about human-rights abuses in neighboring Zimbabwe.
• He criticized the second black South African president, Jacob Zuma, and said that he should have faced trial on charges of taking bribes from arms dealers.
• In 1988, at age 57, he supported a resolution condemning the use of violence in northern Ireland because the Irish republicans had already been given the right to vote.
• He supported the climate change movement to help stop global warming.
• He supported assisted death. On his 85th birthday, he stated, “Terminally ill people ‘should have the right to choose a dignified assisted death.”
• He opposed the U.S. war in Iraq.
• He was instrumental in appointing female priests.
• He campaigned for gay rights.
• In 1996, at age 65 he retired as archbishop of Cape Town
• In 2010 at age 79, he retired from public life.
• In January 1997 at age 66, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer and suffered recurrences at ages 68 and 75. He died at age 90 in a cancer care center in Cape Town.
Virtually All Men Will Develop Prostate Cancer If They Live Long Enough
More than 180,000 North American men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year, but only a very small percentage will die from it. More than 50 percent of North American men will develop prostate cancer by age 60 (J Natl Cancer Inst, (2013) 105 (14): 1050-1058). A review of 29 studies showed that five percent of men already have prostate cancer at age 30, while 60 percent of men will have that cancer by age 80 (Int J Cancer, 2015 Oct 1; 137(7): 1749-1757). Prostate cancer, unlike most other cancers, tends to grow very slowly and does not kill the majority of men who have it. In the United States, the average age for men when first diagnosed is 66. Men with prostate cancer are more likely to die of other causes such as a heart attack.
All men should be told that the American Cancer Society and the American Urologic Association recommend that anyone with prostate cancer should be checked for heart attack risk factors (Circulation, 2010;121(6):833-840) and be put on a lifestyle heart attack prevention program (Circulation, 2016;133(5):537-541). Ten years after being diagnosed with prostate cancer, the vast majority of men will survive whether they were treated with surgery, radiation, or “watchful waiting” where they are followed and not treated unless their cancer has progressed (NEJM, September 14, 2016). See Prostate Cancer and Heart Attacks Share Lifestyle Factors
Prostate Cancer and Heart Attacks
A study of 90,494 U.S. veterans with prostate cancer found that more than half suffered from uncontrolled risk factors for heart attacks (JAMA Netw Open, Feb 24, 2021;4(2):e210070). Almost 30 percent of these high risk patients received no medication or treatment to help prevent a heart attack and its association with cancer progression. Common laboratory indicators of both heart attack and prostate cancer risk include:
• blood pressure higher than 140/90 mm Hg
• LDL cholesterol higher than 130 mg/dL
• hemoglobin A1c (an indicator of diabetes) over 5.7
Many men who suffer from prostate cancer:
• have a very high rate of heart attack risk factors and heart disease (J Clin Oncol, 2020;38(suppl 6):364; Circulation, 2016;133(11):1104-1114).
• smoke and/or are obese, major risk factors for both heart disease and prostate cancer (J Oncol, 2015;2015:820403).
Most of the risk factors for prostate cancer are also risk factors for heart attacks. Every man should try to reduce his risk for both prostate cancer and heart attacks by decreasing his chances for inflammation with the anti-inflammatory lifestyle rules.
Desmond Emeritus Mpilo Tutu
October 7, 1931 – December 26, 2021