A recent report from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that cancer deaths are surpassing cardiovascular deaths in alarming numbers.

Cancer is in the process to become the leading cause of death in the United States, according to a recent report. Although heart disease has been considered a mortal condition since 1910, it seems like cancer rates in mortality have lately become a dormant leading cause among Americans. Researchers examined data based on race, ethnicity, and cause of death; information collected from death certificates from 22 US states.

Cancer has become the second-leading cause of death in the last few years. Image Credit: New Scientist

The report showed that both conditions have been gaining terrain when it comes to Americans’ cause of death.

Cancer as a second-leading cause of death since 2014

Since 1968, it has been reported that heart disease and cancer became two prominent causes of death in the United States. However, it was in 2014 when cancer surpassed cardiovascular diseases as the leading cause of death in 22 states, according to the new report.

The findings pointed out that during 2014, it was registered a significant increase since 2002 when only two states (Alaska and Minnesota) reporting more cancer deaths than cardiovascular deaths.

As per study’s co-author, Robert Anderson, cancer has gained ground as a leading cause of death because of the attention heart diseases have received for being considered a fatal condition among the population. What new data from the National Vital Statistics System have reported is that cancer keeps pace with cardiovascular deaths in the last years.

“It’s been edging this way for a while. We’ve taken for granted that heart disease is the leading cause of death, but now because of prevention efforts and advances in treatment, we’re making substantial progress with heart disease, to the point where now it’s roughly on par with cancer,” said Anderson, chief of the Mortality Statistics Branch at the NCHS.

This means that modern medicine has been so focused on developing treatments to control blood pressure and cholesterol levels that individuals have become more prone to develop cancer.

Researchers reported that heart disease deaths in the US have decreased from 771,000 in 1985 to nearly 597,000 in 2011. In turn, cancer recorded 211,000 deaths in 1950 to almost 577,000 in 2011.

In addition, between 2011 and 2014, researchers found out that heart disease and cancer deaths have reported similar rates. During this time period, heart disease deaths showed a 3 percent rise from 596,577 to 614,348, whereas cancer deaths reported a 2.6 percent increase from 576,691 to 591,699.

The findings, published on August 24 in the CDC’s NCHS Data Brief, also showed that among Americans, there are certain groups who are more prone to die from one condition than others.

Among white and black Americans, heart disease remains the most likely cause of death. In the meantime, Asian-Americans and Hispanics reported a low cardiovascular mortality, while cancer was found out to be the leading cause of death in 2009. This group registered a 72.2% peak from 2000 to 2014 in cancer deaths, in contrast to the 31.8% reported during the same period for heart disease deaths.

For Pacific Islanders, cancer also became the leading cause of death in 2000. This group recorded a 79.6% increase in cancer deaths between 2000 and 2014, compared with 45.5% of heart disease deaths.

Women, in turn, reported a high tendency of dying from heart disease than from cancer.

Cancer’s complexity prevails over cardiovascular diseases

Rebecca Siegel, strategic director of Surveillance Information Services for the American Cancer Society, argued that the rise of cancer deaths might be explained throughout the challenging feature of cancer as a health condition. Due to the fact that cancer is more complicated than cardiovascular diseases, it might be more difficult, as a result, to treat cancer as effectively as heart diseases.

“Heart disease is basically one disease, whereas with cancer we’re looking at more than 100 different diseases. You have very effective ways to prevent and treat heart disease, and we’ve had them for quite some time, whereas knowledge about the biology of cancer and how to prevent it and treat it is still in its infancy,” said Siegel.

Nevertheless, obesity might be also playing a role in the rise. According to Dr. Paolo Boffetta, a professor of environmental medicine and public health at Icahn School of Medicine, at Mount Sinai, obesity is a risk factor for both cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Other experts, who have not participated in the study, are in line with Boffetta by stating that the peak of cancer deaths might be related to the obesity epidemic.

Former studies have revealed that obesity is more likely to cause heart deaths than cancer deaths, however, the condition has been likewise found to be a risk factor to eventually develop cancer.

Source: Everyday Health