Cancer won't stop me, insists Thaw

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John Thaw, the actor best known for playing Inspector Morse, promised yesterday to return to work despite being diagnosed with throat cancer. He thanked his fans for their support but appealed for privacy for himself and his wife, the actress Sheila Hancock, who was treated for breast cancer 10 years ago.

"I am receiving treatment for cancer of the oesophagus," he said. "As soon as this has been completed, I intend to return to work. Sheila and I appreciate everyone's support and understanding, but would now be very grateful if our privacy as a family could be respected, particularly during the period of my treatment and recovery."

Thaw, 59, whose career was recognised with a Bafta fellowship in May, is among television's most popular actors with his role as the curmudgeonly Oxford detective.

His first television appearance was in the 1960s in Z Cars, a role that set the tone for a career spent tackling fictional criminals. He later appeared as Jack Regan in The Sweeney. Most recently he has starred with Sarah Lancashire in ITV's The Glass, in which he was an evangelical capitalist. He has also appeared on the West End stage, notably a season playing Cardinal Wolsey in a Royal Shakespeare Company performance of Henry VII.

Thaw has spoken of winding down his hectic workload. "In the last few years I have made a conscious decision to slow down and I've not worked for a couple of months, quite deliberately," he said. "I've been called a workaholic. But now I can think of many pleasant ways of spending retirement ­ lots of reading, going to concerts, sitting in the sun and long, leisurely lunches."

Cancer of the oesophagus affects mainly men over 60, and claims 7,000 victims in Britain every year. It is usually linked to smoking, alcohol and diet.

When his wife had breast cancer, Thaw said: "Sheila is very blasé about it. She has to have a check-up every year, but she doesn't make a big thing of it."