For decades, cardiovascular disease has been the leading cause of death worldwide. Now, however, a change is emerging: In rich countries, cancer has already superseded cardiovascular disease in the 35- to 70-year-olds as the main cause of death, researchers reported in the journal "Lancet".
The world is experiencing a major shift in noncommunicable diseases, the researchers said. As cardiovascular disease is declining in many countries, cancer will become the leading cause of death worldwide in a few decades. One reason is that there are always better ways to prevent and treat cardiovascular diseases. These include heart attack or stroke.
As rich countries, the so-called PURE investigation, for example, Canada or Sweden. Germany or Austria were not included in the analysis. For example, China, Poland and Turkey were listed as middle-income countries, while poor countries were India and Tanzania. The researchers also presented their data at the European Cardiology Congress (ESC) in Paris.
Germany: Similar trend, but still no reversal
For the study, the scientists led by Gilles Dagenais from the University of Laval in Quebec, Canada had evaluated data from around 160,000 people aged 35 to 70 years.
Participants from poorer countries died two and a half times more frequently from cardiovascular disease than participants from wealthy states - although there are significantly more risk factors for such diseases in wealthy nations. Therefore, the difference can probably be explained by differences in health care, the researchers conclude.
In Germany, cardiovascular diseases still lead the statistics of the causes of death. However, the numbers also record, unlike the current study, deaths in people over 70:
- According to this study, 344.5000 people died of cardiovascular diseases in Germany in 2017.
- The number of cancer deaths was significantly lower at 227,600 cases.
However, the number of deaths from cardiovascular diseases has also declined significantly in recent decades in Germany, while the number of cancer deaths has risen slightly. In 1990, fewer people died from cancer, with around 205,000 people affected. The consequences of cardiovascular diseases were significantly higher with 463,000 people than today.
Cancer: Much more different than cardiovascular disease
The likelihood of dying from the consequences of heart attack, stroke or heart failure has declined significantly in developed countries over the past two decades, the researchers write. Having spent decades conducting statistics on the causes of illness and death, intensive work has been done on prevention and treatment.
A major advantage of this is that cardiovascular diseases have the same, largely modifiable risk factors. Those who treat high blood pressure, in addition to a heart attack, also prevents a stroke.
Cancer, however, are much more diverse, the researchers said. While progress has been made, better tobacco policy has reduced the risk of oral and lung cancer. Other approaches to reduce the risk of cancer, but so new that the consequences are not yet felt - such as HPV vaccine against cervical cancer.
And, the biggest problem: in widespread cancers such as breast, prostate or colon cancer, there have been few opportunities to influence the disease risk. This lack of known risk factors most probably contributed to the fact that the number of cancers in most countries has barely changed.