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Thursday, April 25, 2024

Roger Moore’s many medical problems

Dr. Gabe Mirkin
Dr. Gabe Mirkin

Roger Moore was an English film and television star who was most famous for having played secret agent James Bond in seven films from 1973 to 1985.  In 1991, he was named a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for his work in helping underprivileged children. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2003.  He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2007 and in 2008, the French government appointed him a Commander of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

He died on May 23, 2017 at age 89, after many years of medical problems and unhealthful lifestyle habits.  I do not have access to his medical records, but he wrote extensively about his health and various diseases in four autobiographical books, including My Word is My Bond (2008) and One Lucky Bastard (2014). 

Childhood Illnesses

Moore was brought up in the early 1930s before antibiotics and legislated childhood immunizations, so many of the medical treatments he received as a child would not be done today.   He had measles, mumps and chicken pox as did most children in the pre-vaccine years.  In 1932, at age five, he developed pneumonia in both lungs and was too sick to be moved to a hospital.  Since antibiotics were not yet available, he was treated with thick creams and wraps that were applied to his chest.  All they did was burn his skin.  The doctor told his parents that he would have a death certificate with him when he returned in the morning, but that night the high fever dropped and Moore recovered.  He later said that his father sold his motorbike in order to pay the medical bills.

At that time, many infections were treated with surgery so he had his tonsils, adenoids and appendix removed. Now, we know that these tissues serve a useful purpose in helping to kill invading germs. The appendix helps your intestines to recover their normal bacterial flora after you have had an infection or take antibiotics.  

He had not been circumcised as an infant, so when he complained (at age eight) that his penis was sore, the doctors treated the infection by removing his foreskin.  He was also a childhood sexual abuse victim, but did not tell his mother about it until he was 16 years old because he was ashamed that it happened to him. 

A Lifelong Weight Problem

Moore was 6’1″ but was a chubby teenager and had to watch his weight all his life.  By his thirties, he gained a lot of weight because he regularly ate bacon rolls for breakfast, steak-and-kidney pie for lunch and lots of buns at tea time.  To help control his weight, he asked his doctor for an appetite suppressant and was given amphetamines, which gave him extra energy.  He soon realized that he had become addicted to them and needed to stop taking them. We now know that constant use of amphetamines can increase risk for heart disease and high blood pressure.  He got up at 6 a.m. each day and did calisthenics at his home, but he hurt his back and had to stop his exercise program.  At various times in his life, he tried tennis, walking, golf and swimming.  In his later years he was unable to fit into any of the clothing he kept from his James Bond days.           

Roger Moore
Roger Moore


Moore was a heavy smoker until he began filming The Persuaders in 1971.  He asked his co-star, Tony Curtis, for an ashtray.  Curtis responded by handing him a horrible picture of a lung that was destroyed by smoking.  Moore related, “It turned my stomach and I decided it was time to stop smoking cigarettes.”  However, he continued to smoke cigars for several more years.

Kidney Stones

He suffered through three major bouts of extremely painful kidney stones.  In 1961, at age 34, he was filming Gold Of The Seven Saints in the desert and had to have stones removed surgically.  He suffered two more severe attacks of kidney stones while filming other movies. Evidently the kidney stones were made up of primarily oxalates, so his doctors told him to avoid oxalates in fruits and vegetables such as strawberries, spinach and chocolate.  As a result, he restricted fruits and vegetables and ate more meat and bakery products that made him gain even more weight, which increased his chances of forming plaques in his arteries and suffering heart damage. 


Moore recounts having a wart removed from the inside of his nose, diagnosed by a doctor who was treating Moore’s son on a boat off Portofino.  Warts are usually caused by a virus called HPV, often acquired from close contact with another infected person  

Arsenic Poisoning

When he was filming Gold in mines in Johannesburg in South Africa, his nipples started to hurt and turned a dark-gray color.  Doctors diagnosed the problem as exposure to large doses of arsenic in the water in the mines. 


In his 1977 film, The Spy Who Loved Me, you can see that one side of Moore’s face is puffy and that the eye is swollen shut.  During the filming of the movie he developed a sudden, very painful attack of shingles , which is chicken pox the second time around.  A child with chicken pox will have spots and blisters all over the body.  After a week, his immunity drives the virus from the bloodstream, but can remain dormant in nerve roots for the rest his life. The virus can escape many years later and cause painful blisters on the skin over the affected nerve, usually on just one side of the body.  The Spy Who Loved Me crew had to keep on shooting scenes, so in some of the scenes the camera took no direct pictures of his face and the pictures were shot over his shoulder. 

Skin Cancer

Many movie stars try to keep a constant tan because they think it enhances their appearance on camera. Moore’s “cosmetic surgeon” gave him a tanning machine, which he used in addition to the time he spent on the beach in direct sunlight.  As a result, he had to have many skin cancers surgically removed from his face and the rest of his sun-exposed body. 

Prostate Cancer

Moore got regular prostate checkups and in 1993, when he was in his sixties, his doctor came to his front door and actually cried when he told him that he had prostate cancer. His doctor did not want to tell him this over the phone.  After having radical prostate surgery, Moore recalled having to wear a hose attached to a plastic bag because he lost all control of his bladder.  

Slow Heart Rate 

In 2003, at age 78, he collapsed while dancing in a show on Broadway.  He suddenly couldn’t get enough air into his lungs, was unable to speak, and then hit his head on the stage floor.  The audience thought it was part of the act until they learned that paramedics had taken him to a hospital.  He was diagnosed with bradycardia, a heart rate that was so slow that his heart couldn’t pump enough blood to his brain.  Many athletes have resting heart rates below 50, but some people can pass out when their heart rates drop below 50 beats a minute.  He was told that he could die at any time and that he should have a heart pacemaker inserted immediately. 


In 2013, Moore contracted a very serious case of pneumonia.  Antibiotics did not help him for a very long time because of his previous smoking that had destroyed the cilia that clear filth from the air that you breathe.  Every time you breathe in air, you also take in filth and pollen with it. Then your bronchial tubes secrete mucous, and the cilia, the little hairs lining your bronchial tubes, sweep the filth and mucus up to your mouth and you swallow the filth and mucous with your saliva. Smoking destroys the cilia, so the mucous remains in your bronchial tubes to block your airways and can smother you to death.  He was so sick that he couldn’t move and had to learn how to walk again after his illness.  The high fever caused him to lose most of his famous hair. 


Also in 2013, Moore was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.  Most cases of diabetes that start in later life are caused by an unhealthful lifestyle, not just faulty genes.  Moore smoked, drank excessively, repeatedly lost and gained weight, did not have a sustained exercise program and ate lots of meat, sugared foods and sugar-added drinks.  He had to give up drinking alcohol and eating sugar and taking sugared drinks.   He started drinking artificially sweetened sodas instead, but that may not have been a good idea.  Recent studies have shown that artificial sweeteners can make you hungry, causing you to eat more food and gain weight. Any weight gain can raise blood sugar levels in diabetics even higher.  

Cause of Death

His obituaries state that he died of cancer, but did not state the type.   He had prostate cancer surgery 24 years before his death, but prostate cancer is usually such a slow-growing tumor that it is common for it to take that long for the cancer to spread through the body.  Moore was quoted many times saying, “There is nothing glamorous about death.”

Dr. Gabe Mirkin is a Villager. Learn more at www.drmirkin.com

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