Asbestos touches all sorts of people – regardless of age, gender, power or fame. But asbestos exposure can have deadly consequences including mesothelioma, a rare and incurable cancer that does not discriminate among its victims.

So as the calendar opens on the first week of 2014, we want to take a moment to remember two stars who passed away from mesothelioma last year. The deaths of Hollywood character actor Ed Lauter and MTV celebrity Sean Sasser are a somber reminder that this devastating disease can cut down anyone: factory workers, military veterans, housewives, and celebrities.

Ed Lauter (1938-2013): His face was familiar to millions of people – even if they didn’t know his name. Lauter enjoyed an enviable career, one that spanned nearly 50 years in show business. While his recent films included Seabiscuit (2003) and The Artist (2011), Lauter is often remembered for his roles as Maloney in Family Plot (1976) and as Captain Wilhelm Knauer in The Longest Yard (1974). He also appeared in many television crime dramas including NYPD Blue and Miami Vice. During his career, the actor appeared in more than 200 films and television shows.

Sean Sasser (1968-2013): AIDs activist Sasser shot to overnight celebrity when he appeared on MTV’s popular reality show, The Real World: San Francisco, in 1994. Sasser’s relationship with Real World cast member Pedro Zamora during the reality show and their subsequent commitment ceremony was a groundbreaking moment in the depiction of gay life on television.

Lauter and Sasser join a growing list of actors, politicians, and other famous Americans who’ve succumbed to this devastating disease. View our slideshow to learn more about these public figures whose lives were lost to mesothelioma.