From First Ladies to top athletes to Hollywood's biggest entertainers-cancer has proven to be an equal-opportunity disease. Rather than retreating from the public eye, however, many have used their star power as a platform to raise awareness and money for cancer research.

Most recently, Charlie's Angel star Farrah Fawcett succumbed to her three-year battle with anal cancer. During her very public documentation of her treatment, which broadcast in May, she said that she wanted people to see what cancer is really like (her costars, Jaclyn Smith and Kate Jackson both survived breast cancer).

Anal cancer, though rare, is predominantly caused by the human papillomavirus--which is also linked to cervical cancer. A 2004 study conducted by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Cancer examined 6,000 anal cancer patients. Seventy-three percent of the patients tested positive for HPV-16--a strain that the Gardasil vaccine protects against. To find out more about HPV vaccinations, read out Expert Q&A with Dr. Jennifer Wide.

Patrick Swayze has also made his fight against pancreatic cancer public. Our awareness of pancreatic cancer, which has a low survival rate, increased after Carnegie Mellon University professor Randy Pausch's now infamous speech, The Last Lecture, delivered months before dying from this cancer.

Celebs Advocating for Cancer: Does it Really Help?

Judging by the results of last fall's Stand Up 2 Cancer awareness and fundraising event, the answer is a resounding yes. Newswoman Katie Couric serves on the Executive Leadership Council for Stand Up 2 Cancer. After Couric's husband died from cancer, she co-founded the National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance. She has raised more than $30 million for cancer research. Couric also broadcasted her colonoscopy to raise awareness for this lifesaving screening and is credited for a 20 percent rise in colonoscopies. Between 2003 and 2005, the death rate from colon cancer fell nearly 10 percent. Couric also established a cancer center at the University of Virginia in honor of her sister who died of pancreatic cancer.

In 1978, Betty Ford learned she had breast cancer two weeks after becoming First Lady. She shared her illness publicly, at a time when Americans did not openly discuss breast cancer, and may have inadvertently launched the first cancer public awareness campaign. Fellow First Lady Nancy Reagan and Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O'Connor are just two others in a who's-who of breast cancer survivors.

Celebrities have raised awareness and millions of dollars in research funds. In fact, seven-time Tour De France winner Lance Armstrong made the Livestrong bracelets ubiquitous. He's raised more than $30 million for testicular cancer research through his foundation. Olivia Newton-John of Grease fame created a cancer center in Melbourne, Australia, after surviving breast cancer, and actor Richard Roundtree became a spokesperson for the Susan G. Komen Foundation after also surviving breast cancer. Roundtree is also the spokesperson for Know Your Score, a men's health initiative that encourages health screenings in African-American men.

Being a public figure does not protect you from cancer's reach; but as we've seen, it does allow you to make a difference in a big way.