Alex Trebek, the genial host of the television game show “Jeopardy!” for more than 30 years, has joined the more than 55,000 Americans who were diagnosed last year with pancreatic cancer.
Trebek, 78, tried to get ahead of the news cycle last night and announced the affliction himself in a brief statement on his show.
“Hi everyone, I have some news to share with all of you and it’s in keeping with my longtime policy of being open and transparent with our Jeopardy! fan base,” he said.
“Now, just like 50,000 other people in the United States each year, this week I was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Now normally, the prognosis for this is not very encouraging, but I’m going to fight this, and I’m going to keep working.”
Trebek, who has hosted “Jeopardy!” game show since 1984, jocularly announced that he had three more years on his contract and he was determined to see it through.
“With the love and support of my family and friends and with the help of your prayers also, I plan to beat the low survival rate statistics for this disease. Truth told, I have to! Because under the terms of my contract, I have to host Jeopardy! for three more years! So help me. Keep the faith and we’ll win. We’ll get it done. Thank you.”
But the prognosis isn’t good.
About 1.6 percent of Americans will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). More than 55,000 new cases were diagnosed last year, the institute estimates.
While pancreatic cancer survival rates have been improving, the disease is still considered one of the most deadly forms of cancer. The one-year relative survival rate is only 20 percent, and the five-year rate is only 7 percent, according to the American Cancer Society.
The disease accounts for 7 percent of all deaths from cancer, even though only 3 percent of those afflicted with cancer have the disease. Just 8.5 percent of those diagnosed survived five years after the cancer is discovered, according to the NCI.
Alex Trebek’s age is likely a factor. Almost 70 percent of people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer are 65 or older, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Trebek has become a national institution as host of the game show, which has aired for more than 8,000 episodes.
Unlike its gaudy cousins, Jeopardy! involves no flashing lights or screaming contestants. It’s a game of knowledge. Statements are posted on a lighted board in various categories and contestants must provide answers in the form of a question.
Three contestants, including the previous show’s champion, compete in six categories and in three rounds, the last of which is “Final Jeopardy.” Winners return until they are ultimately defeated by someone else.
Alex Trebek’s style has always been low key.
He brings to the show an air of enlightened curiosity and a poised and erudite manner. Although he appears to be the master of all manner of trivia, a panel of off-screen judges provides the ultimate decisions on facts in question.
He grew up in Canada and began his career as a television journalist for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. He became a game show in America on NBC in 1973. It would be a full decade, however, before he landed on “Jeopardy!”
The show actually predates his own career. It first aired from 1964 to 1975 on NBC, hosted by Art Fleming. Trebek took over the show when it moved to syndication by Sony Pictures Entertainment.
Since then, he’s become a fixture in the lives of millions of Americans. During his tenure, the show has won 33 Daytime Emmy Awards, a record for a game show. It’s also won a prestigious Peabody Award.
During that time, Alex Trebek’s health has occasionally taken him off the air. He suffered a subdural hematoma in late 2017 and was forced to undergo brain surgery. He’s also had two heart attacks.
Last year, Trebek suggested he would retire in 2020, but ended up renewing his contract through 2022. He’ll by 81 by then.
Stage 4 pancreatic cancer means the cancer has spread to other organs, typically the liver or the lungs. The cancer can’t be eradicated at this point, but treatment options are still available, according to medical references.
Chemotherapy is the most frequent course of treatment and a number of operations are often performed to relieve symptoms of the disease.
Among some of the notable celebrities who have died from the disease are actor Michael Landon, famed for his roles on the ’60s drama “Bonanza,” and later Little House on the Prairie;” actor Patrick Swayze, famed for his roles in numerous movies and Apple CEO Steve Jobs.
Check out Alex’s announcement below.