Cancer overtakes heart disease as biggest killer

September 4, 2019  12:54

Cancer is superior to cardiovascular disease as the leading cause of death among middle-aged people in several countries, Reuters reported

Among adults between the ages of 35 and 70, cardiovascular disease is still considered the leading cause of death worldwide, but a new study has shown that cancer mortality is now more common than cardiovascular disease in some countries with high and middle income. These countries include Sweden, Canada, Chile, Argentina, Poland and Turkey.

The study is the largest of its kind analysis of causes of death on five continents, said Dr. Salim Yusuf, professor and executive director of the Institute for Population Studies at McMaster University in Canada.

“Our report found cancer to be the second most common cause of death globally in 2017, accounting for 26% of all deaths. But as (heart disease) rates continue to fall, cancer could likely become the leading cause of death worldwide, within just a few decades,” said Gilles Dagenais, a professor at Quebec’s Laval University in Canada who co-led the work.

The study includes analysis of mortality and disease data among 162,534 adults across five continents. Data was obtained from a study of the Prospective Urban and Rural Epidemiologic (PURE) study, published in The Lancet and presented at the ESC Congress in Paris.

Countries were divided into three categories:

Low-income countries: Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, Pakistan and India. Then middle-income countries: Philippines, Iran, South Africa, Colombia, China, Brazil, Malaysia, Turkey, Poland, Argentina and Chile. Lastly, high-income countries: Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Canada, and Sweden.

After analyzing data for these countries, researchers found that noncommunicable diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases, are the most common cause of death and illness worldwide among adults.

Researchers also found that cardiovascular disease is more common in middle and low income countries than in high income countries.

Meanwhile, in high-income countries and in some countries with higher income levels, the average cancer mortality rate is higher than that of cardiovascular disease.

Moreover, in low-income countries, "mortality from cardiovascular disease is three times higher than from cancer."

Most cases of cardiovascular disease and death worldwide can be prevented and can be attributed to a small number of common modifiable risk factors.

More research is needed to determine whether the results can be extrapolated to all countries in the world.

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