Cancer, Not Heart Disease, Is Now America's Top Killer
February 02, 2005
Though cancer has dethroned heart disease as the top killer among Americans under the age of 85, evidence shows deaths from both have actually improved.
For heart disease particularly, death rates have drastically declined. According to a 2002 study (the most current study available), 476,009 Americans under 85 died of cancer, while 450,637 died of heart disease. And while the very oldest Americans continue to die of heart disease more than cancer, a reverse trend is expected to occur by 2018.
Why Heart Disease Death Rates Have Fallen
One possible explanation for this decrease in heart disease deaths is there seems to be fewer smokers than in the past: Between 1965 and 2000, smoking among adults fell from 42 percent to 22 percent.
The decline in heart disease deaths has also been said to reflect the improved surgical techniques and devices -- as well as better drugs to treat heart problems and control high blood pressure -- for those suffering from heart disease.
A 1 percent decline in cancer death rates per year (since 1999) has been accredited to earlier detection, prevention efforts and better treatments; however, cancer still remains a recurrent disease among Americans. For 2005 alone:
It is estimated 1,372,910 new cancer cases and 570,260 cancer deaths will occur; five-year survival rates have risen from 50 percent to 74 percent from the 1970s
Lung cancer remains the biggest killer, estimated to claim the lives of 163,510 people
About 232,090 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, killing 30,350
Some 211,240 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, killing 40,410
USA Today January 20, 2005