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Cancer overtakes CVD as leading killer of men in UK

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Cancer has overtaken cardiovascular disease as the UK’s “number one killer” of men, according to UK researchers.

They found that, for the first time since the middle of the 20th century, cancer had overtaken CVD as the primary cause of death in 2012.

“CVD remains a considerable burden, both in terms of health and costs”

Study authors

The proportion of deaths attributable to cancer was 29%, while CVD accounted for 28%, said the researchers from Oxford University.

But this was only true of men. CVD is still the most common cause of death among women, and kills more young women than breast cancer, the figures showed.

Almost one in three deaths (32%) in men were caused by cancer, compared with 29% for CVD. The equivalent figures were 27% and 28%, respectively, for women.

CVD accounted for a total of nearly 42,000 premature deaths – before the age of 75 – in 2012, accounting for more than one in four premature deaths in men and around one in five in women.

England had the lowest prevalence of all CVD conditions out of the four UK countries. But there were regional variations, with higher rates of cardiovascular disease in the North than in the South.

Scotland had the highest prevalence of coronary heart disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease, while Wales had the highest prevalence of high blood pressure, heart failure, and atrial fibrillation.

The researchers used latest national data and a major report compiled for the British Heart Foundation to quantify the UK prevalence of CVD and how many deaths it causes.

They also analysed entries to the Clinical Practice Research Datalink GOLD database, information from the GP quality and outcomes framework, and figures on episodes of inpatient hospital care.

The study authors said: “Despite significant declines in mortality in the UK, CVD remains a considerable burden, both in terms of health and costs.

“Prevention measures to improve diet, physical activity, binge drinking and tobacco use are necessary to tackle both these regional inequalities and premature mortality from CVD,” they said in the journal Heart.


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