Eva Ekvall, 28, a former Miss Venezuela whose struggle with breast cancer was closely followed by Venezuelans, died Saturday at a hospital in Houston.

Ms. Ekvall was crowned Miss Venezuela at age 17 in 2000, and the following year she was third runner-up in the Miss Universe pageant in Puerto Rico. She went on to work as a model, actress, and television news anchor.

She also wrote a book, Fuera de Foco - Out of Focus, about her struggle with cancer. She told the newspaper El Nacional in an interview last year after the book was published that "I needed to send the message of the need for cancer prevention."

On the cover was a portrait in which she appeared with makeup and her head shaved. The book also included images of her while going through chemotherapy.

Ms. Ekvall was married to radio producer John Fabio Bermudez and had a 2-year-old daughter. The family said that her remains were cremated in Houston on Monday and that a service would be held in Venezuela. - AP