Eddie Van Halen: Guitar Picks Gave Me Cancer

It’s been over a decade since Van Halen guitarist Eddie Van Halen battled tongue cancer, but he came out this week saying he believes it wasn’t heavy smoking that caused his disease, but rather, his choice of guitar picks.

“I used metal picks – they’re brass and copper – which I always held in my mouth, in the exact place where I got the tongue cancer. Plus, I basically live in a recording studio that’s filled with electromagnetic energy. So that’s one theory. I mean, I was smoking and doing a lot of drugs and a lot of everything. But at the same time, my lungs are totally clear. This is just my own theory, but the doctors say it’s possible.

Eddie Van Halen’s battle with cancer has been a rocky one since receiving his diagnosis in 2002. The Oral Cancer Foundation has an entire page devoted to Van Halen the band – and guitarist – and talks about the rise of the band, as well as the partying lifestyle that became synonymous with the band. It mentions that at the time, the cause of Van Halen’s cancer was considered to be a result of drinking and smoking.

In 2008, Van Halen’s ex-wife Valerie Bertinelli spoke to Ladies’ Home Journal about Eddie and said that even then, Van Halen was convinced it was not smoking that caused his cancer.

The guy has mouth cancer, gets part of his tongue cut out, and he still insists cigarettes have nothing to do with it… There was so much denial, so much not talking. You should have seen the guy he attributes his ‘cure’ to. They sat around drinking and smoking in our hotel room. But, well, cancer hasn’t come back yet, so who am I to say.

In an interview with Esquire magazine in 2012, Eddie Van Halen admitted his cancer returned twice in the previous year. He said that doctors removed cancer cells from his throat, as well as another small piece of his tongue. He told Esquire that he wasn’t comfortable talking about it until then.

I haven’t talked about this, because I don’t talk about this.

Van Halen’s history as a band has been rocky, but despite all the interpersonal struggles and the guitarist’s battle with cancer, the band still came together to create 2012’s A Different Kind of Truth. Van Halen also released a live album in March of this year titled Tokyo Dome Live In Concert. The guitarist came out today saying that Van Halen frontman David Lee Roth “does not want to be my friend.”

[Image via Rolling Stone]