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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Heart attacks and cancer – it seems like almost all of us know someone who has had one or the other.
But, which is deadlier?
The CDC projects cancer will be the number one killer within two years.
Researchers at Stanford Medical School looked at more than 32 million death records across more than 300 countries in North and South America from 2003 to 2015.
Overall, deaths are down 12 percent. But, the pattern in the top two spots is shifting.
In 2003, 75 percent of deaths were from heart disease as compared to 59 percent in 2015.
“Death rates from heart disease are going down very rapidly, and we’ve got a really good handle on coronary heart disease,” Allegheny Health Network Radiation Oncologist Dr. David Parda said.
In 2003, cancer was in the lead in two out of every 10 countries. By 2015, it was four out of 10 countries.
“As the population ages, the overall numbers of cancer patients now that are dying from cancer are exceeding the number of patients dying of heart disease,” Dr. Parda said.
The researchers also looked at socioeconomics and income. Declines in death were less pronounced for those less well-off. When it comes to race, cancer has replaced heart disease as the leading cause for Asian-Americans, Hispanics, and whites.
“There have been some disparities in terms of five-year survival rates for different groups,” Dr. Parda said. “As we’ve gotten our cancer programs more well-developed and more distributed throughout the communities, we’re seeing those disparities go down.”
Even with the upward cancer numbers, better screening and advances in treatment, for example personalized medicine, have improved outcomes overall.
“Cure rates are going up,” Dr. Parda said.