According to a new set of statistics, cancer is surpassing heart disease as the No. 1 killer of people in 22 states. That might lead some to believe that the statistics point to a rise in the number of cancer cases, but the actual reason for the switch is that the number of heart disease deaths is on the decline.
Across the United States, heart disease is still the national leader in causes of death, (with cancer being a close second), though death rates for both types of disease have been steadily falling for the past two-and-a-half decades. The new numbers, however, indicate that national rates of heart disease are falling at a steeper level than that of cancer. When the focus is put on particular groups, cancer is the outright No. 1 killer among Hispanics, Asians, and adults between the ages of 40 and 79.
Cancer is now the No. 1 killer in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Although cancer has become the No. 1 killer in each of those states, cancer mortality rates have dropped over 23 percent since a peak recorded in 1991. Experts attribute the drop in cancer deaths to a major decline in cigarette smoking, as well as advanced cancer detection techniques and cancer treatment advances. Looking at the rates of heart disease in the same time period, heart disease mortality has dropped more than 46 percent.
The cancer society predicts there will be nearly 1.7 million new cancer cases this year, and nearly 600,000 deaths.
Mortality data from diseases like heart disease and cancer are released between two and four years behind the current date because it takes so long to amass the data, compile it, treat it for quality control and final dissemination. As such, researchers have to use estimates from previous years in order to estimate the cancer and heart disease mortality rates for 2016. A past “incidence count” is taken into consideration between the years of 1998 and 2012 using geographic variations in socio-demographic and lifestyle factors, cancer screening behaviors and medical settings as predictors of future cancer occurrences.
Using the above criteria, the expected mortality rate caused by all cancers in the United States are projected to be 595,690. Of that total, 314,290 are expected to male, and 281,400 are expected to be female. Those numbers correspond to about 1,600 deaths per day in 2016. According to the study, over a course of a lifetime, males in the United States have roughly a 42 percent chance of contracting some form of invasive cancer, while females in the United States have a 38 percent chance of contracting an invasive cancer. The authors of the new study published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, Rebecca L. Siegel, Kimberly D. Miller and Ahmedin Jemal, say that the reasons why more males are subjective of cancer than females is currently not well understood, “but to some extent reflect differences in environmental exposures, endogenous hormones, and probably complex interactions between these influences.”
As far as types of cancers in the United States, the authors state that cancers of the lungs, prostate and colorectum in men, and lung, breast and colorectum in women add up to almost half of all cancer fatalities in the United States. More than one-quarter of all cancer deaths in the United States (27 percent) are due to lung cancer.
When it comes to kids in the United States, cancer is currently the No. 2 killer for children between the ages of 1 and 14. The No. 1 killer in the same age group is accidents. Leukemia currently accounts for almost a third of total invasive cancers in children in the United States.
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