WASHINGTON--According to the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), cancer now rivals or surpasses heart disease as the leading cause of death in several European countries and parts of Asia and Latin America. The new report is the most comprehensive look at international death rates ever undertaken by the NCHS. It compares age-adjusted death rates from 41 industrialized countries from 1955 through 1991.
The United States has the lowest death rate from stroke in the industrialized world for males and among the lowest for females. It also has significantly reduced deaths from heart disease. On the other hand, smoking-related lung cancer rates for US women are among the highest for developed countries.
In the United States, heart disease remains the number 1 killer, with an age-adjusted death rate of 144.3 per 100,000 population in 1992, followed by cancer at 133.1. The narrowing gap stems primarily from sharp declines in cardiovascular deaths, rather than increases in cancer deaths.
Although cancer deaths declined in this country by 1% from 1991 to 1992, a larger fall was seen in heart disease (2.6%). Heart disease saw a dramatic decline of 27.7% from 1979 to 1992, compared with a 1.8% overall increase in cancer deaths, according to a separate NCHS report.