Eddie Van Halen's cause of death is cancer. He was first diagnosed with tongue cancer in early 2000. Two years later, he beat the disease, but it came back about a decade later.
It was also revealed he had been battling throat cancer the past five years. In October 2020, he lost his battle at the age of 65. The news was confirmed by his only son, Wolfgang Van Halen, on Instagram.
For the most part, the guitarist kept his health battle private. It's unknown exactly what type of cancer he had or what stage it was.
According to the American Cancer Society, "laryngeal and hypopharyngeal cancers start in the lower part of the throat. Cancer starts when cells in the body begin to grow out of control. Cells in nearly any part of the body can become cancer and can spread to other areas of the body."
Treatment for throat cancer varies. Some patients undergo surgery, while others are prescribed a few different treatments, including chemotherapy, radiation, and immunotherapy. The treatment suggested by an oncologist will often depend on the stage of the illness and the overall health of the patient.
It has been reported that Van Halen had part of his tongue removed when he was first diagnosed. And while it is unknown for certain what his exact treatment plan was following his second diagnosis, a 2019 report from TMZ unveiled he had been flying to Germany for radiation treatment. At the time, he was hospitalized after suffering gastrointestinal side effects from the medication he was taking.
While no one can say for sure what might have caused Van Halen's cancer, he firmly believed he developed the disease from a metal guitar pick he used in the '80s. Evidently, he would frequently put the pick in his mouth.
"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," he told Billboard in 2015.
However, he started drinking and smoking at a very young age and tobacco use is one of the leading causes of oral cancers.
"I was an alcoholic, and I needed alcohol to function. I started drinking and smoking when I was 12. I got drunk before I'd show up to high school. My ninth grade science teacher, he could smell the alcohol, and he told me, 'Don't drink anything you can't see through.' And I was like, 'So, vodka?' And he said yeah. Which was great, because that was my drink...I'm not blaming my father at all, but he was an alcoholic, too. So in our household, it was normal. But it never affected his work, although I guess it didn't affect my work, either. Around 2004, I suppose I became a very angry drunk. But [the stuff in Sammy Hagar's book] was definitely embellished. That's him painting a picture of something that never happened," he told the outlet.
The reason why the guitar virtuoso didn't think his smoking habit caused his cancer?
"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," he also said.