Strength in Numbers dedicated to my late mother Kay

Cancer overtakes heart disease as No1 cause of death: Statins, healthier lifestyles and better treatment help cardiovascular deaths to plummet

  • Cancer overtakes cardiovascular disease as biggest killer for first time
  • People less likely to have heart issues and if they do more likely to survive
  • But cancer rates are gradually increasing as people live longer lives 

Cancer rates, meanwhile, are gradually increasing as people live longer and access to expensive new drugs are failing to keep up with demand. Researchers last night revealed that deaths from the disease had overtaken heart deaths among women in 2014 – the most recent data available – as it did for men in 2011. It means that for the first time cancer is the number one cause of death for the population as a whole.

Study leader Dr Nick Townsend said: ‘Fewer people are having a cardiovascular event and more are surviving them.  ‘We are seeing reductions in the causes of cardiovascular disease, with dramatic decreases in smoking rates in particular.’

There have also been big improvements in treatments, he said, with specialised heart units and use of stents in hospitals meaning people who do have heart attacks and strokes are more likely to survive. Dr Townsend, whose work is published in the European Heart Journal, said lifestyle factors – drinking, smoking, diet and exercise – have an impact on roughly 85 per cent of cases of cardiovascular disease. For cancer, lifestyle is responsible for between 40 and 50 per cent of cases, with the remainder caused by genetics and other factors.

This means that the improvements in lifestyle seen over the past 50 years in Britain have had a much bigger impact on heart disease than on cancer.

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