Jeopardy's Alex Trebek Gets Candid About Losing Hosting Skills Due To Cancer Treatment

alex trebek cancer announcement jeopardy

For over 35 years, Jeopardy! fans have watched the television beacon of stoicism that is host Alex Trebek, but the time may soon come when Trebek is unable to successfully take the Jeopardy! stage on a daily basis. In March of 2019, Trebek went public with news that he'd been diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer, and though he was initially optimistic about how well the treatments were going, he's now offering up a much more frank and pragmatic assessment that will have fans worried.

Alex Trebek appeared on the CTV news program W5 and admitted the treatments are really taking their toll, and that it may not be much longer before he'll have to step down from the Jeopardy! podium. In his words:

I talk to the producers about this all the time now. I say, ‘Look, I’m slurring my words. My tongue doesn’t work as much, as well as it used to. The chemo has caused sores inside my mouth. It makes it difficult for me to speak and enunciate properly.’ They say, ‘Well, we don’t notice.’ I notice those things. And I’m sure there are observant members of the television audience who notice also. I’m not as bothered by it because all of the people around me are saying, ‘No, it’s okay.’ But there will come a point where they will no longer be able to say, ‘It’s okay.'

Astute Jeopardy! viewers have indeed noticed moments when Alex Trebek's speech has been slightly less precise than at other points, but considering Trebek has been so particular with his pronunciations over the years, he now just sounds more like other TV hosts. Still, the story behind why his speech is suffering is certainly a sad one, and fans will no doubt hope that things end up taking another turn for the positive.

Certainly, most Jeopardy! fans would readily allow Alex Trebek to keep hosting the game show until he literally couldn't stand up or talk anymore, but the show's producers understandably can't be quite as lax about the entertainer's health issues. And as Trebek put it to CTV's Lisa Laflamme in the video above, it sadly may not be long before someone makes the decision that his vocal problems are too prominent for him to continue as Jeopardy!'s leader.

The past seven months or so have obviously been as painstaking and troublesome as any in Alex Trebek's career, though he did have some prior health problems that likely weren't a walk in the park either. Dealing will all of that internally is a huge struggle, and that's not counting all of the attention he's gotten from fans, coworkers and plenty of others out there.

To that end, Alex Trebek also got frank about regrets he has about revealing his diagnosis in such a big and public way. Here's how he put it:

I have some regrets about having gone public with it. I have become, in many ways, the spokesperson for pancreatic cancer. It’s tough sometimes trying to be as optimistic as you can, and I don’t know if I’m strong enough or intelligent enough to alleviate some of that despair.

For Jeopardy! fanatics around the world, and for many contestants that have come and gone, there isn't anyone else in the world beyond Trebek who would be strong or intelligent enough to maintain such a high-profile hosting gig all while dealing with cancer growths and chemotherapy. So even though the day is likely coming when someone else might get cherry-picked to be a host on Jeopardy!, no one will ever truly replace Alex Trebek.

For now, Jeopardy! airs every day in syndication, so be sure to check your local listings to see when and where you can find it.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.