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Cancer overtakes heart disease as the largest cause of death in UK

According to a study by Oxford University scientists, cancer has now overtaken cardiovascular disease as the largest cause of death in the UK for the first time.

Reported by the Daily Mail[1], the Oxford team analysed death rates up to 2014 in countries across Europe. In the UK that year, 167,582 deaths were attributed to cancer, with cardiovascular disease accounting for 154,639. This is a large swing from five years earlier, where 24,000 more people died from cardiovascular disease than cancer.

The study, funded by the British Heart Foundation, found similar trends across Europe, with cancer overtaking cardiovascular disease in 12 countries.

Study leader Dr Nick Townsend said: ‘Fewer people are having a cardiovascular event and more are surviving them. 

'We are seeing reductions in the causes of cardiovascular disease, with dramatic decreases in smoking rates in particular.’

According to Dr Townsend, lifestyle factors such as smoking, drinking, diet and exercise have an impact on roughly 85% of cases of cardiovascular disease.

Nick Ormiston-Smith, of Cancer Research UK, said: ‘Huge progress has been made in improving cancer survival, doubling in the past 40 years in England and Wales.

‘But too many people still die from the disease … we’ve still got a long way to go.’

The article points towards age as the biggest reason for continually increasing cancer rates. More than three-quarters of all people diagnosed with cancer in the UK are over 60. Britain’s ageing population means more people than ever before will reach the age where they are at risk of being diagnosed with the illness.

Figures reported by Cancer Research UK[2] (from 2002-2013) indicate an 8% increase in cancer diagnosis for females and 3% for males.

[1] The Daily Mail (2016)

[2] Cancer Research UK (2016)

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