Cancer Gaining on Heart Disease in Some Parts of the World

April 1, 1995

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.

WASHINGTON--According to the National Center for Health Statistics(NCHS), cancer now rivals or surpasses heart disease as the leadingcause of death in several European countries and parts of Asiaand Latin America. The new report is the most comprehensive lookat international death rates ever undertaken by the NCHS. It comparesage-adjusted death rates from 41 industrialized countries from1955 through 1991.

The United States has the lowest death rate from stroke in theindustrialized world for males and among the lowest for females.It also has significantly reduced deaths from heart disease. Onthe other hand, smoking-related lung cancer rates for US womenare 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 populationin 1992, followed by cancer at 133.1. The narrowing gap stemsprimarily from sharp declines in cardiovascular deaths, ratherthan increases in cancer deaths.

Although cancer deaths declined in this country by 1% from 1991to 1992, a larger fall was seen in heart disease (2.6%). Heartdisease saw a dramatic decline of 27.7% from 1979 to 1992, comparedwith a 1.8% overall increase in cancer deaths, according to aseparate NCHS report.