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Cancer tops cardiovascular disease in UK death rates, but north-south divide continues

Cancer has narrowly overtaken cardiovascular disease (CVD) as the UK’s top killer.

Researchers analysed the latest nationally available data (2012/13) for each of the four UK countries, along with statistics compiled for the British Heart Foundation.

For the first time since the mid-20th century, cancer overtook CVD as the primary cause of death. In 2012, 29% of deaths were attributable to cancer, while CVD accounted for 28%.

However, CVD still killed more women than cancer, at 28% compared to 27%. In men, almost one in three deaths (32%) were caused by cancer, compared with 29% for CVD.

CVD accounted for nearly 42,000 premature deaths (before the age of 75) in 2012, or more than one in four premature deaths in men and around one in five (18%) in women.

There were wide regional variations in the death rates, which were higher in Scotland and the north of England, and lower in the south of England. Glasgow topped the

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Researchers analysed the latest nationally available data (2012/13) for each of the four UK countries, along with statistics compiled for the British Heart Foundation.

For the first time since the mid-20th century, cancer overtook CVD as the primary cause of death. In 2012, 29% of deaths were attributable to cancer, while CVD accounted for 28%.

However, CVD still killed more women than cancer, at 28% compared to 27%. In men, almost one in three deaths (32%) were caused by cancer, compared with 29% for CVD.

CVD accounted for nearly 42,000 premature deaths (before the age of 75) in 2012, or more than one in four premature deaths in men and around one in five (18%) in women.

There were wide regional variations in the death rates, which were higher in Scotland and the north of England, and lower in the south of England. Glasgow topped the table for deaths from CVD, including premature deaths.

The study also reveals a substantial increase in spending on CVD in the past two decades, with the NHS in England alone spending £6.8 billion in 2012/13, the majority on hospital care.

In a linked editorial (doi: 10.1136/heartjnl-2015-307887), Adam Timmis of the NIHR Cardiovascular Biomedical Research in London says the continuing north-south divide is a ‘stain on the UK’s public health record’.

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