UPDATE: Eighteen months after this original posting, the cardiologist I discuss below is back in the news. John Sotos is now seeking to borrow a piece of fabric from a pillowcase which supported Lincoln’s head as Lincoln lay dying on April 14, 1865. The material contains dried blood and brain matter from Lincoln. Sotos would like to perform testing on the DNA in order to prove his theory that Lincoln suffered from a rare cancer. Click here for the latest in this saga.
Was Abraham Lincoln suffering from a rare form of cancer at the time of his death? According to an article from the November 25, 2007 edition of The Washington Post, a cardiologist is claiming that Lincoln had a very rare genetic syndrome which inevitably leads to thyroid or adrenal cancer. This syndrome, called MEN 2B, is inherited and causes nearly every person it affects to develop cancer. Some symptoms of the syndrome are above-average height, stomach problems, and tumors. Obviously Lincoln was quite tall, especially for the era, and it is known that he suffered from chronic constipation his entire life. On the other hand, another symptom is weakness. However, numerous sources document that Lincoln was quite strong throughout his life, even towards the end of his being able to hold an ax at arm’s length without his arm shaking.
It’s an interesting read, but much like the claims that Lincoln had Marfan syndrome, this claim of cancer in Lincoln will probably be debated for many years. And in the end, it doesn’t really matter. It was John Wilkes Booth who killed Lincoln, not cancer or Marfan.