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Former U.S. President Carter says he has cancer

Carter, 90, is known in the Middle East for his Camp David accord between Egypt and Israel

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Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, known in the Arab world for bringing Egypt and Israel together through the Camp David accord, has said on Wednesday that recent liver surgery revealed he had cancer that had spread to other parts of his body.

"I will be rearranging my schedule as necessary so I can undergo treatment by physicians at Emory Healthcare," Carter, 90, said in a statement. "A more complete public statement will be made when facts are known, possibly next week."

Carter, a Democrat, served as president from 1977 to 1981 after defeating Republican incumbent Gerald Ford. He was defeated for re-election in 1980 by Republican Ronald Reagan.

The Carter family has a history of pancreatic cancer, including his parents, two sisters and younger brother Billy Carter who all died from the disease.

Carter told the New York Times in 2007 that he and other relatives had given blood for genetic studies seeking to help doctors diagnose the disease.

Asked why he has escaped the disease for so long while it devastated the rest of his family he blamed smoking. "The only difference between me and my father and my siblings was that I never smoked a cigarette," said Carter, former governor of Georgia and a state senator. "My daddy smoked regularly. All of them smoked."

The Carter Center said last week that he had undergone elective surgery at Atlanta's Emory University Hospital to remove a small mass in his liver and his prognosis was excellent.

Democratic President Barack Obama, who is vacationing on Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, spoke with Carter on Wednesday "to wish him a full and speedy recovery," White House spokesman Eric Schultz said.

'As resilient as they come'

"Jimmy, you're as resilient as they come, and along with the rest of America, we are rooting for you," Obama said in a statement issued by the White House.

A Nobel Peace Prize winner and activist on a range of issues from global democracy to women and children's rights, as well as affordable housing, Carter published his latest book last month, titled "A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety."

Carter recalled growing up in a home without running water or electricity, at a time when he said the daily wage was $1 for a man and 75 cents for a woman, and a loaf of bread cost 5 cents.

He said the civil rights movement led to important progress toward racial equality in the United States, but lamented "there's still a great prejudice in police forces against black people and obviously some remnants of extreme racism."

(With Reuters)