Published: Wed, September 04, 2019
Health Care | By Cedric Leonard

Cancer Overtakes Heart Disease As Biggest Killer In High-Income Countries

Cancer Overtakes Heart Disease As Biggest Killer In High-Income Countries

But as better prevention and treatment of heart disease becomes more common, and cases of the disease "continue to fall, cancer could likely become the leading cause of death worldwide, within just a few decades", Dagenais said.

Cancer could soon be the No. 1 cause of death globally, researchers noted.

For this paper, the research involved 162,534 adults aged 35 to 70 from 21 countries who were followed for a median of 9.5 years.

Whereas heart problems stays, for now, the main reason for mortality worldwide amongst middle-aged adults - accounting for 40% of all deaths - that's not the case in high-income global locations, the place most cancers now kills twice as many individuals as coronary heart illness, the findings confirmed.

Of the others, cardiovascular disease caused more than 40% in middle- and low-income countries but less than a quarter in high-income countries.

Dr. Salim Yusuf, Professor of Medicine, McMaster University, and Principal Investigator of the study remarked: "While long-term CVD prevention and management strategies have proved successful in reducing the burden in HIC, a change in tack is required to alleviate the disproportionately high impact of CVD in LIC and MIC. Governments in these countries need to start by investing a greater portion of their Gross Domestic Product in preventing and managing non- communicable diseases including CVD, rather than focusing largely on infectious diseases".

Despite including as many as 21 countries, the researchers said to exercise caution in generalizing the results to all countries, particularly since they lacked data from west Africa, north Africa or Australia with few participants from the Middle East.

Deaths from cancer in the richer countries have become twice as frequent as those from cardiovascular disease, scientists say.

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Such data rings true for India, whose top spot for causes of death, cardiac disease, claimed the lives of 28.1 percent of the total deaths for 2016.

Dr. Gilles Dagenais, Emeritus Professor at Laval University, Quebec, Canada and lead author of the first report, stated that findings show that cancer is fast becoming the leading cause of death worldwide.

These included diet, behavioural and socioeconomic factors, they said.

In about 2,000 cases, the cause of death was unclear.

Kate Oldridge-Turner, head of policy at the World Cancer Research Fund, said: 'That cancer is the biggest cause of death in high-income countries is not surprising as many cancer risk factors such as diet and physical activity are linked to social and economic development.

There is an inverse association between use of hospital care and effective medication versus deaths, suggesting that lower quality health care may be responsible, at least in part, for the higher mortality in poorer countries. Global health policies should be adapted to different groups of countries based on factors such as the expected benefit and access to health care.

Countries analyzed included Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, India, Iran, Malaysia, Pakistan, Palestine, Philippines, Poland, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sweden, Tanzania, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and Zimbabwe.

Stephanie Read of Women's College Research Institute in Toronto and Sarah Wild of the University of Edinburgh, U.K., wrote a journal commentary published with the research.

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