Author and journalist Christopher Hitchens said Wednesday that he is undergoing chemotherapy for cancer of the esophagus and has canceled the remainder of his tour in support of his new memoir, Hitch-22
. Hitchens broke the news in a brief statement
on the website of Vanity Fair, where he is a columnist.
"I have been advised by my physician that I must undergo a course of chemotherapy on my esophagus," Hitchens wrote. "This advice seems persuasive to me. I regret having had to cancel so many engagements at such short notice."
Esophageal cancer is often caused by alcohol and tobacco consumption. A 2003 article
in the New England Journal of Medicine called it "one of the least studied and deadliest cancers worldwide."
Hitchens, 61, is famous for his heavy smoking and drinking, though he gave up cigarettes in 2008. In 2003, Hitchens wrote in Vanity Fair that his daily alcohol intake was enough "to kill or stun the average mule." In Hitch-22, published in June 2010, he wrote that he had moderated his alcohol consumption significantly. "There was a time when I could reckon to outperform all but the most hardened imbibers, but I now drink relatively carefully," he wrote. On C-SPAN earlier this year, he said
he finds alcohol "a better servant than a master."
Hitchens immigrated to the United States from the U.K. in 1981, and has since become a familiar character in the Washington social scene
. He became an American citizen in 2007, saying
that after 9/11 he began to feel he was "cheating on his dues" by living in the United States without becoming a citizen. "At that point, the U.S. began to be subject to a fantastic campaign of slander and defamation, and I began to feel really protective. This is my country you're talking about."
The news of Hitchens' cancer elicited a sympathetic response from some Christians, with whom he has had an antagonistic relationship since the publication of his 2007 polemic, God is Not Great
, which attacked the world's major religions and advocated atheism. "I know he doesn't want me to, and I know he thinks it is useless but, Christopher Hitchens, I am praying for you," Pat Archibald wrote
on the website of the National Catholic Register.