Cancer Outpacing Heart Disease as Leading Cause of Death in These Countries …

Henrietta Brewer
September 3, 2019

There were more than 11,000 deaths, with those in low-income countries almost four times more likely to die than those in high-income countries.

The findings come from the first large prospective global study documenting the frequency of common diseases and death rates in high-, middle- and low-income countries using a standardized approach.

But that ranged from only 23% per cent in high-income countries (HIC) to 41% in middle-income countries (MIC) and 43% in low-income countries (LIC). The study documented the frequency of common diseases and death rates across countries.

But the researchers say people in rich nations are 2.5 times more likely to die of cancer than cardiovascular disease in their middle years.


When looking at all causes of death except cancer, the overall mortality per 1,000 person-years was lowest in high-income countries, at 3.4%.

Heart disease still claims the lives of more people globally, but in more affluent nations it has now ceded its place as the leading killer to cancer, a major new report finds.

"The implications are that in HIC, while continued efforts to prevent and treat CVD should continue, new efforts to reduce cancer are required", said Darryl Leong, the co-lead author of the study, scientist at PHRI, and assistant professor of medicine at McMaster University. The same team of researchers used data on nearly 156,000 middle-aged people to look at the role played by 14 heart disease risk factors.

Overall, modifiable risk factors, including metabolic, behavioural, socioeconomic and psychosocial factors, strength and environment, accounted for 70% of all CVD cases globally. Salim Yusuf, a professor of medicine at McMaster University in Canada, agreed that "long-term cardiovascular disease prevention and management strategies have proved successful in reducing the burden in high-income countries".


However, the relative importance of risk factors for cases of cardiovascular disease and death varied widely between countries at different stages of economic development.

'Rates of hospital admission and of medication use were inversely associated with death, suggesting that lower health-care availability or accessibility might be contributing factors to higher mortality in the poorer countries, ' the authors said. "There is an opportunity now to realign global health policies and adapt them to different groups of countries based on the risk factors of greatest impact in each setting".

Researchers also found that with higher country income, a higher proportion of deaths and hospitalisations were from non-communicable diseases compared to infectious diseases.

The PURE study is the only large prospective worldwide cohort study that involves substantial data from a large number of countries and employs standardized and concurrent methods of sampling, measurement, and follow-up, according to the Lancet. Countries analyzed in these two reports from the PURE Study include: Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, India, Iran, Malaysia, Pakistan, Palestine, the Philippines, Poland, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sweden, Tanzania, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and Zimbabwe.


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