Cancer has taken the lead from heart disease and stroke as the number one killer disease in 12 European countries, new research states.
However, cardiovascular diseases — both heart disease and stroke — remain as the leading cause of death globally, responsible for over 17 million deaths yearly, US News reports.
There are 53 countries that make up Europe, as defined by the World Health Organization. Heart disease has killed over 4 million people across those countries in 2016, accounting for 45% of total deaths in the region. Cancer caused less than half the deaths heart disease caused, researchers said.
But efforts to prevent and treat heart disease seem to be having an effect, at least in some European countries, leading to a decline in heart disease-related deaths and putting cancer at the forefront.
Cancer is now the most dangerous disease in Belgium, France, Denmark, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Portugal, Norway, Spain, Slovenia and the United Kingdom.
The study also found that cancer causes more deaths in women in Denmark and Israel.
Nick Townsend, lead author on the study and senior researcher at the University of Oxford’s British Heart Foundation Centre on Population Approaches for Non-Communicable Disease Prevention, said,
These figures highlight the wide inequalities between European countries in deaths from [heart disease and stroke].
The countries where cancer had overtaken heart disease and stroke are all in Western Europe, Townsend noted. In comparison, the highest mortality rates from cardiovascular diseases are in Eastern European countries.
Townsend said while there is progress across Europe in terms of combating heart disease, there is a clear discrepancy in the consistency of such efforts. He added that more research is necessary to compare data among countries in order to establish why other countries have lower heart disease mortality rates, and also so that government health agencies can prepare better interventions for heart disease and stroke prevention.
The study was published in the European Heart Journal.