Cancer Overtakes Heart Disease

cancer-overtakes-heart-disease-1The diseases of the heart and blood vessels kill more people worldwide than anything else, but cancer has now overtaken CVD as the main cause of death in 12 European countries.  The European Heart Journal published new data on the burden of CVD in Europe for 2016.  The European region is defined as the 53 member states of the World Health Organization, and the data shows that CVD caused more than four million deaths each year, which is 45% of all deaths in this region.  There is success though, in preventing and treating the disease that has led to a large decrease in CVD in a number of countries.

Cancer accounts for less than half the number of deaths than CVD in Europe as a whole, in nine of the 15 countries that were members of the European Union before 2004, and in another country that was among those that joined the EU afterwards, there are more men now that die from cancer than CVD.  Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain and the UK are these countries.  Norway and Israel are not members of the EU but this was also the case in both of these countries.  More women die from cancer than CVD in Denmark and Israel.

A research was led by Dr. Nick Townsend, the senior researcher at the BHF Centre on Population Approaches for Non-Communicable Disease Prevention at the University of Oxford (UK) and he said, “these figures highlight the wide inequalities between European countries in deaths from CVD.  The 12 countries in which cancer has overtaken CVD as the main cause of death are all found in Western Europe, with nine of them having been members of the EU before 2004.  The highest numbers of deaths from CVD tend to be seen in Eastern European countries.”

Cancer was first seen to overtake CVD as the main cause of death in men in France, which was compiled from the figures from 2011, the most recent year available. This report showed that 92,375 men died from cancer and 64,659 died from CVD.  Cancer overtook CVD in Spain in 2013 when 67,711 men died from cancer and 53,487 died from CVD in 2013.  The UK reported in 2013 that 87,511 men died from cancer and 79,935 from CVD. The progress across Europe in the prevention and treatment of CVD has decreased in mortality but it is clear that the progress made in Western Europe and most EU countries is yet to be achieved equally throughout the region. Inequalities can be seen in the percentages of deaths from CVD and age standardized death rates (ASDR) where the death rates per 100,000 of the population have been adjusted according to the proportions of people in different age groups in the population.

The researchers report for the first time the number of years of life lost to deaths from CVD or years lived with disability due to the condition.  One Disability-adjusted life years (DALYS) is equivalent to one year of healthy life lost.  It was also Dr. Townsend’s statement that said there were higher rates of years lost to death or disability due to CVD in Eastern Europe, but some differences might be due to different population distributions between countries, as these rates were not standardized for age or sex.

They are now calling for monitoring and surveillance of CVD in order to help countries in Europe work towards reducing the inequalities seen across the continent.  More research is needed into why some countries are showing improved outcomes, while others are not.  More data needs to be collected in all countries to make comparisons on deaths and suffering from CVD between countries.

-Dr Fredda Branyon

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