I have cancer, says Lloyd Webber

'Phantom' composer is expected to return to work by the end of the year
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Andrew Lloyd Webber has been diagnosed with prostate cancer. The Oscar-winning composer of some of the most successful British musicals of all time has been admitted to hospital and is undergoing treatment.

A spokesman said that his condition was in its "early stages" and that the composer, 61, was expected to be "fully back at work before the end of the year". No further details of Lord Lloyd-Webber's condition were available.

News of his condition emerged yesterday morning, just weeks after he announced plans for his eagerly anticipated sequel to Phantom of the Opera, Love Never Dies.

The show, which will open in London and Broadway next year, is the result of 17 years of work and will come under critical scrutiny as the sequel to Phantom, one of the most successful musicals in history. The musical, which is set 10 years after The Phantom of the Opera, sees the ghost move from his lair at the Paris Opera House to haunt New York's Coney Island fairground. Lord Lloyd-Webber recently described it as the "toughest thing" he had ever done.

The number of cases of prostate cancer has been increasing. Considered the most common cancer in British men, it currently accounts for a quarter of all new cancer cases affecting 35,000 men each year and killing over 10,000.

The condition has been associated with the elderly, but medical experts believe that men as young as 40 are increasingly at risk, especially if they have male relatives under 70 that have already been diagnosed with the condition. John Neate, the chief executive of the Prostate Cancer Charity, said that of the 35,000 diagnosed each year 40 per cent will be in their fifties and sixties.

The charity believes that a man's chances of developing prostate cancer increases if they have a relative diagnosed under the age of 70. This rises to three fold if the relative is a brother. A man with more than one relative diagnosed before the age of 60, would have four times as much chance of developing the condition.

As well as composing some of Britain's most successful musicals including Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita and Starlight Express, Lord Lloyd-Webber has embarked in numerous other projects.

This year he spearheaded Great Britain's entry in the Eurovision Song Contest by composing "It's My Time", which finished fifth. The accompanying TV show involved him travelling to Moscow to interview Vladimir Putin. The eventual winner, Jade Ewen, has recently become the newest member of girl band The Sugababes.

He won the Best Original Song Oscar in 1997 for "You Must Love Me" from the film version of his musical Evita, starring Madonna. He has also won three Grammies, and dozens of other awards. In 1993 his star was placed on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Lord Lloyd-Webber has also produced film scores of Gumshoe, The Odessa File, and Requiem, a setting of the Latin Requiem Mass, for which he won a Grammy for best contemporary composition.

Lord Lloyd-Webber, who started composing at the age of six and published his first suite when he was nine, has also led three successful BBC series which cast leads for West End musicals. Next year he will launch a show to find actors to play Dorothy and Toto in a new theatrical production of The Wizard of Oz. He was knighted in 1992 and ennobled in 1997.

Prostate cancer: The facts

*Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in British men, killing 10,000 a year.

*The prostate sits beneath the bladder neck and is the size of a walnut. It secretes prostatic fluid, one of the five fluids that make up semen.

*Prostate cancer usually grows slowly and may remain undiagnosed.

*Unlike many other cancers, prostate cancer may not cause any difficulties in a man's lifetime.

*Lycopene, found in tomatoes, is thought to help prevent it.