With 17.3 million deaths globally, cancer has now overtaken heart diseases as the main cause of death in 12 European countries, revealed a study. The findings showed that in France, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain and Britain more men die of cancer than of diseases of heart and blood vessels (cardiovascular or CVD).
This was also the case in Norway and Israel (which are not members of the EU). In Denmark and Israel more women die from cancer than heart diseases. France was the first country where cancer overtook heart diseases as the main cause of death in men. According to figures from 2011, 92,375 men died from cancer and 64,659 died from heart diseases.
The next country where cancer overtook heart diseases as the main killer was Spain. Figures from 2013 suggest that 67,711 men died from cancer and 53,487 died from heart diseases. In Britain, 87,511 men died from cancer and 79,935 from CVD in 2013.
"These figures highlight the wide inequalities between European countries in deaths from heart diseases. The 12 countries in which cancer has overtaken heart diseases as the main cause of death are all found in Western Europe. The highest numbers of deaths from heart diseases tend to be seen in Eastern European countries," said lead author Nick Townsend at the University of Oxford.
The new data on the burden of heart diseases in Europe for 2016 showed that in the European region (defined as the 53 member states of the World Health Organization) heart diseases caused more than four million deaths each year or 45 per cent of all deaths.
"With higher mortality from heart diseases still found in Eastern Europe and non-EU countries, it is clear that the progress has been made in Western Europe and most EU countries is yet to be achieved equally throughout the region," Townsend added.
The study calls for monitoring and surveillance of CVD in order to help countries in Europe work towards reducing the inequalities seen across the continent.
"Improved data need to be collected in all countries in order to make comparisons on deaths and suffering from heart diseases between countries so that health professionals and national governments can target interventions more effectively to reduce inequalities," Townsend noted in the paper published in the European Heart Journal.