Defiantly giving a middle finger salute, this poignant photo of three British icons has tugged at the heart strings of fans after being mocked up as a message to cancer following Alan Rickman's death.

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It features the Harry Potter and Robin Hood actor alongside glam rock legend David Bowie and rock star Lemmy Kilmister - all of whom have passed away from cancer within the space of just 18 days.

The image has so far been shared more than 10,000 times following the announcement of Golden Globe winner Rickman's death earlier today.


His secret battle with the disease was revealed just days after it emerged Bowie had kept his own liver cancer fight private before passing away on Sunday.

A picture of Rickman sticking his middle finger up on the set of 1999 film Dogma was posted alongside similar ones of Bowie and Motörhead frontman Lemmy, who died 48 hours after being told he had an aggressive form of cancer.

The heavy metal icon had celebrated his 70th birthday just four days earlier.

The image was tweeted by the music website Gigwise.

It sparked a flurry of responses from fans, many of whom posted their own defiant messages.

In the wake of the deaths of both Alan Rickman and David Bowie this week, cancer charities have said that as people live longer, deaths from the disease will rise.

John Newlands, a senior cancer specialist in the UK, said: "We're very sad to hear the news about Alan Rickman and David Bowie. Our thoughts are with their family and friends.

"Sadly the number of people with cancer is growing rapidly and half of us will face a cancer diagnosis at some point in our lives. But the reality is also that more people than ever before are living much longer with cancer.

"It has never been more important that everyone gets the emotional, practical, physical and financial support they need throughout their experience of cancer."

READ MORE: The Herald series Cost of a Life looked at the funding of cancer drugs in NZ. We are republishing it in the wake of the deaths of Alan Rickman, David Bowie and Lemmy Kilmister. Click here to launch the series.

- Daily Mail