Robbie Robertson was a Canadian musician who played lead guitar and sang and wrote songs for Bob Dylan in the 1960s and 1970s, and with “The Band” until 1978. Then he continued his successful career as a solo recording artist and film music composer, and wrote books. He worked on films with Martin Scorsese as an actor and music writer, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, Canada’s Walk of Fame, and the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. About a year ago, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer that had spread to other parts of his body, and he died on August 9, 2023.
Early Life and Music Career
Jaime Royal Robertson was born to a Jewish father and a native Mohawk Indian mother before they were married. He later took his stepfather’s family name after his parents married. His father was a professional gambler who died in a hit-and-run accident.
Robertson was first exposed to music at the Indian tribe’s Six Nations 40, Ontario, where he spent summers with his mother’s family and wrote songs and performed on stage as a teenager. In 1960, at age 17, he joined singer Ronnie Hawkins in the band called “The Hawks.” They later changed their name to “The Band” when Bob Dylan hired them to open for his band. In 1976, when Robertson was 33, the Band broke up and Robertson started a solo career, releasing several successful solo albums.
Music for Films
In 1980 at age 37, he was hired by Martin Scorsese to write the music for the film Raging Bull, which led to his writing the music for several other films such as The King of Comedy, The Color of Money, Casino, Gangs of New York, The Irishman and Killers of the Flower Moon.
In 1968, Robertson married Dominique Bourgeois, a Canadian journalist, and they had three children. After living with restaurant owner and Top Chef Canada judge Janet Zuccarini for four years, they were married in 2022.
Virtually every man will develop prostate cancer if he lives long enough. Prostate cancer has a high survival rate and usually does not kill because it tends to stay in the prostate, with:
• a 5-year relative survival rate of nearly 100 percent after diagnosis
• a 10-year relative survival rate of 98 percent
• a 15-year relative survival rate of 95 percent
However, once the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, the average five-year survival rate is only 28 percent. The cancer is most likely to spread to bones first where it can cause severe pain and fractures. That is why bone strengtheners, such as bisphosphonates and denosumab, are usually given to patients whose prostate cancer has spread to bones.
Normal cells are not supposed to live forever. The DNA in all cells in your body causes all cells to self-destruct after a certain number of doublings. This is called apoptosis. For example, red blood cells live up to 120 days and then die. Skin cells live only 28 days and then die. Cancer means that the DNA is damaged, so a cell tries to live forever. Cells that do not die can overgrow and spread, which is the definition of cancer (Nature, Jan 3, 2018;553:171–177). Prostate cancer does not kill a man as long as it remains in the prostate. However, if the cancer spreads from the prostate to other parts of the body, it can kill by destroying these invaded cells. For example, if prostate cancer invades the lungs, it destroys the lungs.
Risk Factors for Prostate Cancer
An overactive immunity, called inflammation, may increase risk for prostate cancer (Cancers (Basel), 2023 Feb; 15(3): 630). An anti-inflammatory diet is associated with reduced risk for prostate cancer (Nutr Cancer, 2019;71(3):359-366). Your immune system is supposed to be good for you because it prevents germs from getting into your bloodstream and cells. Your immune system also seeks out and destroys the many defective cancer cells that your body produces every day. However, an immune system that stays active all the time (inflammation) can use its cells and proteins to attack and destroy the DNA in healthy cells, altering them so they try to live forever and become cancer cells that can overgrow, invade healthy tissue and kill you (Front Physiol, March 20, 2023;14:1119095).
• A 10-year follow up study shows that men with prostate cancers that are most likely to kill them (Gleason scores 7-10) live longer when they adopt an anti-inflammatory diet (Int J Cancer, May 31, 2016).
• Exercise helps to reduce inflammation and death from prostate cancer (American J of Physiology, August 2, 2023;325(2):C429-C442)
• Men with both prostate cancer and diabetes (an inflammatory disease) die much earlier than those with prostate cancer without diabetes (J Diabetes Complications, May-Jun 2016;30(4):591-6).
• People who eat a pro-inflammatory diet are at increased risk for all cancers (Eur J Nutr, Jan 29, 2016;29). Men who eat a pro-inflammatory diet are at markedly increased risk for developing prostate cancer (Br J Nutr, Jan 2015;113(2):278-83).
• Eating red meat (which is pro-inflammatory) is associated with increased risk for breast cancer (Int J Cancer, Apr 2016;138(7):1609-18), while drinking alcohol, which is also pro-inflammatory, is associated with increased risk for breast cancer (J Natl Cancer Inst, Nov 2, 2005;97(21):1601-8).
• People who follow anti-inflammatory cancer prevention guidelines can reduce all cancer incidence rates by 10 to 45 percent. They can also reduce risk of death from any cancer by 14 to 61 percent (Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, July 2016).
To help prevent and treat inflammation that is associated with increased risk for prostate cancer:
• Eat a plant-based diet that is high in anti-inflammatory foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole unground grains, beans, seeds and nuts.
• Restrict mammal meat, processed meat, refined carbohydrates (foods made with flour), fried foods, lard, sugar-added foods, and all sugar-sweetened and artificially sweetened beverages
• Try to exercise every day
• Avoid being overweight
• Avoid tobacco
• Restrict or avoid alcohol
Dr. Gabe Mirkin is a resident of The Villages. Learn more www.drmirkin.com