What Was Jimmy Buffett Cause of Death? How Did He Cope With His Illness?

Jimmy Buffett, the legendary singer-songwriter and entrepreneur, passed away on Friday, September 3, 2023, at the age of 76. He was known for his iconic songs such as “Margaritaville”, “Come Monday”, and “Cheeseburger in Paradise”, as well as his lifestyle brand that included restaurants, hotels, casinos, and merchandise. He was also a philanthropist, environmentalist, and avid pilot.

But what was Jimmy Buffett’s cause of death? How did he cope with his illness? And how are his fans and peers remembering him? In this article, we will answer these questions and more.

What Was Jimmy Buffett Cause of Death?

According to a statement on his official website, Jimmy Buffett died from Merkel cell skin cancer, which he had been battling for four years. Merkel cell skin cancer is a rare and aggressive form of skin cancer that usually appears as a single painless lump on sun-exposed skin. It tends to grow quickly and spread to other parts of the body, such as the lymph nodes, lungs, brain, bones, and organs.

The statement said: “Jimmy passed away peacefully on the night of September 1st surrounded by his family, friends, music, and dogs,” “He lived his life like a song till the very last breath and will be missed beyond measure by so many.”

How Did Jimmy Buffett Cope With His Illness?

Jimmy Buffett did not let his illness stop him from living his life to the fullest. He continued to perform and record music while undergoing treatment. His last album, “Life on the Flipside”, was released in 2020 and featured songs that reflected his optimistic outlook on life. His last show was a surprise appearance at a Mac McAnally concert in Rhode Island in July 2023.

Jimmy Buffett also maintained his sense of humor and adventure. He once said, “I’ve had a couple of close calls and I’m still here. So I think I’ve been living like it could be my last day for a long time”. He was an avid pilot who flew his own planes around the world. He also supported various causes that he cared about, such as environmental conservation, hurricane relief, and education.

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What Causes Merkel Cell Cancer?

The exact cause of Merkel cell skin cancer is not fully understood, but several factors may increase the risk of developing it. These include:

  • Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun or tanning beds. UV light can damage the DNA of the skin cells and cause them to grow out of control. Most MCCs occur on sun-exposed areas of the skin, such as the face, head, neck, and arms.
  • Infection with a common virus called Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCPyV). This virus lives on the skin of most people and does not cause any symptoms. However, in some people, it can integrate into the DNA of the Merkel cells and trigger their abnormal growth. About 80% of MCCs are linked to MCPyV infection.
  • Having a weakened immune system. People who have a compromised immune system due to HIV infection, organ transplantation, chronic leukemia, or other conditions are more likely to develop MCC. A weak immune system may not be able to fight off the MCPyV infection or prevent the growth of abnormal Merkel cells.
  • Older age. The risk of MCC increases with age, as the skin becomes more damaged by UV light and the immune system becomes less effective. The average age at diagnosis is about 70 years.
  • History of other skin cancers. People who have had basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, or melanoma are more likely to develop MCC as well. This may be due to shared risk factors such as UV exposure or genetic susceptibility.

What Are the Symptoms of Merkel Cell Skin Cancer?

The most common symptom of MCC is a fast-growing, painless lump or bump on the skin. The lump may be skin-colored or may appear in shades of red, blue, or purple. It may feel firm or soft to the touch. It may also ulcerate or bleed easily after minor trauma, such as washing or shaving. The lump may be anywhere on the body, but it is most often found on the face, head, neck, or arms.

Some people may also experience swollen lymph nodes near the site of the tumor. This may indicate that the cancer has spread beyond the skin to other parts of the body. Other symptoms may depend on where the cancer has spread and how it affects the function of different organs. For example, if the cancer has spread to the lungs, it may cause shortness of breath, coughing, or chest pain. If it has spread to the brain, it may cause headaches, seizures, or changes in vision or mental status.

How is Merkel Cell Skin Cancer Treated?

The treatment of MCC depends on several factors, such as the size, location, and stage of your tumor, your overall health, and your preferences. The main goals of treatment are to remove or destroy the cancer cells, prevent the cancer from coming back or spreading, and relieve any symptoms or complications. The main types of treatment for MCC are:

  • Surgery: This is the primary treatment for MCC that has not spread beyond the skin. It involves removing the tumor along with a margin of normal skin around it. The amount of skin removed depends on the size and depth of the tumor. Sometimes, a skin graft or flap may be needed to cover the wound after surgery. If the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes, they may also be removed surgically (called lymph node dissection). Surgery can offer a high chance of cure for early-stage MCC, but it may also cause some side effects such as pain, bleeding, infection, scarring, or changes in sensation or appearance.
  • Radiation therapy: This is a treatment that uses high-energy rays or particles to kill cancer cells or stop them from growing. It may be used after surgery to lower the risk of the cancer coming back in the same area (called adjuvant radiation therapy) or to treat MCC that has spread to other parts of the body (called palliative radiation therapy). Radiation therapy may also be used as the main treatment for MCC that cannot be removed surgically or for people who cannot have surgery due to other medical conditions. Radiation therapy can be effective in controlling MCC, but it may also cause some side effects such as skin irritation, fatigue, nausea, hair loss, or damage to nearby healthy tissues.
  • Chemotherapy: This is a treatment that uses drugs to kill cancer cells or stop them from growing. It may be given by mouth (orally) or through a vein (intravenously). It may be used alone or in combination with other treatments for MCC that have spread to other parts of the body or that have come back after initial treatment (called recurrent MCC). Chemotherapy can help shrink tumors and relieve symptoms, but it may also cause some side effects such as hair loss, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, mouth sores, low blood cell counts, or increased risk of infection.
  • Immunotherapy: This is a type of treatment that helps your immune system fight cancer cells. It may be given by injection under the skin (subcutaneously) or into a vein (intravenously). It may be used alone or in combination with other treatments for MCC that have spread to other parts of the body or that have come back after initial treatment (called recurrent MCC). Immunotherapy can help boost your body’s natural defenses against cancer cells, but it may also cause some side effects such as rash, itching, fatigue, fever, chills, joint pain, or inflammation of certain organs.

How Are Jimmy Buffett’s Fans Remembering Him?

Jimmy Buffett’s fans and peers are mourning his loss and celebrating his legacy. His fans, known as Parrotheads, have been sharing their memories and tributes on social media and online forums. Many of them have expressed their gratitude for his music and lifestyle which inspired them to enjoy life and follow their dreams.

Jimmy Buffett’s peers in the music industry have also paid their respects and praised his talent and influence. Some of the celebrities who have honored him include Paul McCartney, Elton John, Kenny Chesney, Brian Wilson, Joe Biden, and Bill Clinton. They have described him as a friend, a legend, a pioneer, and a lovely man.


Jimmy Buffett was a remarkable musician and entrepreneur who left behind a lasting legacy. He died from Merkel cell skin cancer, which he fought bravely for four years. He coped with his illness by continuing to make music and live his life with joy and passion. He was remembered by his fans and peers as an icon who touched millions of lives with his songs and spirit.

We hope this article has given you some insight into Jimmy Buffett’s cause of death and how he lived his life. If you are a fan of Jimmy Buffett or want to learn more about him, you can visit his official website or listen to some of his songs on Spotify. You can also support some of the causes that he cared about by donating to the Singing for Change Foundation or the Coral Reef Foundation.


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