Globally, cardiovascular diseases have been known to be the leading cause of death among middle-aged adults between 35 to 70 years old. However, a recent study suggest that the case is in fact gradually changing, stating that cancer is slowly topping heart diseases as the leading cause of death among middle-aged adults.
The new research, published in the journal The Lancet, which is also the largest of its kind, found that deaths from cancer are now more common than those from cardiovascular disease in some high-income and middle-income countries. This study was led by Dr. Salim Yusuf, distinguished professor and executive director at the Population Health Research Institute at McMaster University in Canada and analysed data of the leading cause of death across five continents to make its conclusions.
Cancers occur when cells in the body divides uncontrollably. This uncontrollable dividing of body cells results in tumours which could also spread to other parts of the body from where it originated from leading to destruction of the immune system and fatality. Smoking, alcohol consumption, excess body weight, physical inactivity and poor nutrition are linked to increased risk of developing cancers. According to the American Cancer Society, doctors diagnose 87% of cancer cases in people ages 50 years or older. This makes age the most significant unpreventable risk factor for developing cancers in addition to genetics. The National Cancer Institute stated that breast cancer is the most common type of cancer, followed by lung cancer and prostate cancers.
Why Cancers Are Slowly Topping As The Leading Cause Of Death Among Adults
Researchers say that cancer is slowly becoming the leading cause of death among middle-aged adults, surpassing heart diseases. The researchers conducted a recent study which involved analyzing data on deaths and diseases among 162,534 adults across five continents. Their data came from a research effort called the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology, (PURE) study and dated from 2005 to 2016. The researchers also found that cardiovascular disease was more common in middle-income and low-income countries than in high-income countries.
Meanwhile, there was a higher incidence of death from cancer than cardiovascular disease in high-income countries and some upper middle-income countries, according to the data. In the high-income countries, “death from cancer was twice that from cardiovascular disease,” the researchers wrote in the study. Whereas, in the low-income countries, death from cardiovascular disease was three times that from cancer.
Dr. Salim Yusuf, who was senior author of the study noted in the study that “this epidemiological transition might be due to improved prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease in high-income countries, whereas successful strategies to prevent and treat cancers, other than tobacco control, are yet to lead to large reductions in most cancers.”
This study however, said Yusuf, who was first author of that study had some limitations, including that even though they spanned five continents, they still did not include all countries around the world. More research is needed to determine whether the findings can be extrapolated to all countries globally.
Approaches To Treating Cancers
New innovative research has brought about the development of new medications and treatment technologies used in the effort to treat cancers. The treatment option is usually dependent on the type of cancer, its stage at diagnosis, and the person’s overall health.
Doctors will often employ more than one type of treatment to maximize effectiveness. Also, a surgeon may remove lymph nodes to reduce or prevent the disease’s spread. The various approaches to cancer treatment may include :
- Chemotherapy : which aims at killing cancerous cells with medications that target rapidly dividing cells. The drugs can also help shrink tumors, but the side effects can be severe.
- Hormone therapy : which involves taking medications that change how certain hormones work or interfere with the body’s ability to produce them. This is a common approach in tackling prostate cancers and breast cancers.
- Immunotherapy : which uses medications and other treatments to boost the immune system and encourage it to fight cancerous cells.
- Precision medicine : which is also called personalized medicine, involves using genetic testing to determine the best treatments for a person’s particular presentation of cancer. This is a newly developing approach and researchers have yet to show that it can effectively treat all types of cancer.
- Radiation therapy : which uses high-dose radiation to kill cancerous cells. Also, a doctor may recommend using radiation to shrink a tumor before surgery or reduce tumor-related symptoms.
- Stem cell transplant : which involves removing cells, such as red or white blood cells, that chemotherapy or radiation has destroyed. Lab technicians then strengthen the cells and put them back into the body. It is especially beneficial for people with blood-related cancers, such as leukemia or lymphoma.
- Targeted therapies : which perform functions within cancerous cells to prevent them from multiplying. They can also boost the immune system. Two examples of these therapies are small-molecule drugs and monoclonal antibodies.