Former Saved By the Bell star Dustin Diamond has died following a battle with cancer. Diamond, who was beloved as Screech on the '80s and '90s sitcom, died Monday at the age of 44, his representative confirmed to TMZ. The actor passed away with his girlfriend by his side just weeks after announcing that he had been diagnosed with stage 4 small cell carcinoma that began in another part of his body and metastasized in his lungs.
According to the actor's representative, Diamond's health began to rapidly deteriorate within the last week. He was recently taken off breathing machines in an attempt to get him to hospice care. He passed away Monday, with a representative also confirming the news in a statement to Entertainment Tonight.
"We are saddened to confirm Dustin Diamond's passing on Monday, February 1st, 2021 due to carcinoma," the statement reads. "He was diagnosed with this brutal, relentless form of malignant cancer only three weeks ago. In that time, it managed to spread rapidly throughout his system; the only mercy it exhibited was its sharp and swift execution. Dustin did not suffer. He did not have to lie submerged in pain. For that, we are grateful."
Mario Lopez, who starred alongside Diamond on the NBC show, paid tribute to him shortly after his passing. He tweeted a recent photo of the two of them and wrote, "Dustin, you will be missed my man. The fragility of this life is something never to be taken for granted. Prayers for your family will continue on..."
Diamond's passing came after he was hospitalized in January for what at the time was a mysterious ailment. Details of the Saved by the Bell star's hospitalization weren't made available at the time, though it was said the actor underwent various tests and a biopsy to determine what was causing his body pain. Diamond later confirmed he had been diagnosed with cancer, with his team explaining in a statement, "Dustin will disclose more information once it is available and a plan moving forward is made. We ask everyone to respect Dustin's privacy during this difficult time. All positivity and prayers are appreciated." It was later confirmed that he had been diagnosed with stage 4 small cell carcinoma, with his representatives just last week stating that the actor had finished his first round of chemotherapy and would be starting physical therapy soon.
Amid his diagnosis, Diamond, best known for his role as "Screech" in the hit teen series, received an outpouring of support from his former Saved By the Bell co-stars. In a social media post shared alongside two photos of them, Lopez wrote, "I connected with Dustin earlier this evening and although the news of his diagnosis is heartbreaking, we remain positive that he'll overcome this. Praying for him & his family and for a speedy recovery. God Bless." Diamond also received an outpouring of support from fans.
Diamond got his start in acting with small roles in the TV movie Yogi's Great Escape and an episode of It's a Living in 1987. Just a year later, he landed his breakout role when he was cast as Screech in Good Morning Bliss, which went on to become the basis for Saved By the Bell. The actor starred on the series until 1992, also starring in the follow-ups, Saved by the Bell: Hawaiian Style, Saved by the Bell: The College Years, and Saved by the Bell: Wedding in Las Vegas. He appeared in the 1994-200 series Saved by the Bell: The New Class.