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Cancer Overtaking Heart Disease as Europe"s Biggest Killer

Cancer is now responsible for more deaths than cardiovascular disease (CVD) in 12 European countries, with dramatic falls in CVD mortality rates over the last 10 years seen across the entire continent, an analysis of World Health Organization (WHO) data indicates.

Nick Townsend, PhD, senior researcher at the BHF Centre on Population Approaches for Non-Communicable Disease Prevention at the University of Oxford, United Kingdom (UK) and colleagues found 4 million CVD deaths in Europe in 2013, accounting for 45% of all deaths.

There were differences between European regions, however, with the proportion of deaths due to CVD at 33% among countries that joined the European Union (EU) before 2004, vs 38% of deaths in countries that joined the EU after 2004, and 54% of all deaths in non-EU countries.

Dr Townsend told Medscape Medical News that approximately half of the reduction in CVD mortality is due to reduced incidence, while the other half is due to reduced case fatality.

He explained that there are "less people suffering, having cardiovascular events, and when they do have them, less people are dying of them," adding: "So, it"s a combination of public health, population-based interventions to decrease things like smoking rates but then also treatments [such as] drug therapy alongside things like more use of stents."

The research, which was published online by the European Heart Journal on August 15, showed, however, huge variations in CVD mortality rates between European countries, with age-adjusted rates lowest in France but up to 6 times higher in countries such as Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan.