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Cancer now kills more UK patients than heart disease

Monday 22nd August 2016
How will new cancer statistics help to influence healthcare in the future? Image: dolgachov via iStock
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Hospital doctors in the UK are now recording more deaths from cancer than heart disease for the first time ever, new statistics show.

New analysis published in the European Heart Journal reveals that cancer has recently overtaken cardiovascular disease (CVD) as the main killer in 12 countries throughout Europe, including France, Italy, Belgium, Spain, Denmark and the Netherlands.

Following the publication of this data, doctors are likely to be involved in devising strategies to help prevent so many deaths occurring from cancer in the future, alongside safeguarding patients' health by discouraging them from lifestyle factors that may exacerbate the onset of CVD.

How cancer has overtaken heart disease as the biggest killer

Figures gathered by doctors from the University of Oxford show that four million people die from CVD in Europe each year, meaning the condition accounts for 45 per cent of all deaths in the region. Globally, this rises to 17.3 million fatalities every year.

However, in 12 countries in Europe, cancer has now overtaken CVD as the biggest annual killer, despite the fact that treatments have become more advanced and new screening programmes have been developed in recent years.

Yet a significant disparity has been recorded with regard to the treatment and prevention of cancer in some parts of the region, particularly in Eastern Europe, but also in the UK, with these countries have a significantly higher death rate from different forms of the condition.

Statistics show that France was the first country where cancer overtook CVD as the biggest killer illness, with figures from 2011 (the most recent available) showing that 92,375 adult males died from cancer during the year, while 64,659 died from heart disease.

In the UK - where the most up-to-date data comes from 2013 - 87,511 men lost their lives to cancer over the 12-month period, while 79,935 succumbed to CVD, highlighting that the number dying from cancer is markedly higher.

Although these figures may suggest that the 12 nations have got heart disease under better control, with patients offered sufficient advice on how they can follow a healthy lifestyle to prevent the condition from developing, they also show that serious action is needed to improve the diagnosis and management of cancer.

How will this data influence future healthcare?

Dr Nick Townsend, lead author of the study and senior researcher at the BHF Centre on Population Approaches for Non-Communicable Disease Prevention at the University of Oxford, stated: "Although we have seen progress across Europe in the prevention and treatment of CVD, leading to decreases in mortality from it, it is clear that such progress is not consistent across the continent."

Therefore, hospital doctors and GPs based in the UK may need to look to the early diagnosis and prevention strategies employed in other European countries to inform their own efforts to reduce fatalities from cancer in the future.

Dr Townsend added: "We need more research into why some countries are showing improved outcomes, while others are not. Improved data need to be collected in all countries in order to make comparisons on deaths and suffering from CVD between countries so that health professionals and national governments can target interventions more effectively to reduce inequalities."

Written by James Puckle

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