NEW YORK (Reuters) - ABC News television anchor Peter Jennings said on Tuesday he has lung cancer but he plans to continue broadcasting while he undergoes chemotherapy, starting next week.
The Canadian-born Jennings, host of ABC's "World News Tonight" since 1983, is the last of a generation of long-serving lead anchors for major U.S. broadcasters who is still delivering the nightly news.
The 66-year-old newsman, who smoked when he was younger, told colleagues about his illness in an e-mail. "There will be good days and bad, which means that some days I may be cranky and some days really cranky," he said in the e-mail, which was made available to reporters.
"Almost 10 million Americans are living with cancer. I am sure I will learn from them how to cope with the facts of life that none of us anticipated," he said.
"I begin chemotherapy next week," he added.
Jennings plans to continue to work at the network during his treatment, ABC News President David Westin said.
"It's both Peter's and my expectation that he will anchor World News Tonight during the period of treatment to the extent he can do so comfortably," Westin said in a statement.
NBC's Tom Brokaw stepped down in December after 21 years as anchor of "NBC Nightly News" and Dan Rather ended his 24-year career as CBS lead anchor last month, after a discredited report on President Bush's military service.
The news raised speculation about Jennings' future at ABC, which just this week announced that another veteran journalist, Ted Koppel of "Nightline," was leaving the network.
"I'm sure there are an awful lot of broadcast journalists right now who are looking at their contracts and trying to figure out when ABC is going to make a decision for this," said Robert Thompson, director of the Center for the Study of Popular Culture at Syracuse University.
Lung cancer is by far the biggest cancer killer in the United States and globally, affecting an estimated 172,570 people in the United States alone and killing more than 163,000 Americans annually.
About 42 percent of lung cancer patients live a year but only 15 percent of patients are still alive five years later. The key is early detection, before the cancer has spread but only 16 percent of lung cancers are caught at this stage.
Almost 90 percent of lung cancers in the United States are due to smoking.