Cancer, Heart Disease Top Killers

Tuesday, March 3, 2009 ·

The Canadian death rates for cancer and heart disease, while down in recent years, still accounted for more than half of the deaths in Canada in 2004, according to a new Statistics Canada report. The report, released Thursday, said that of nearly 227,000 deaths in 2004, cancer was the cause of 29.5 per cent and heart disease was not far behind at 22.9 per cent. The third-leading cause, stroke, accounted for 6.5 per cent of deaths in Canada for that year. Heather Chappell, senior manager for the Canadian Cancer Society's cancer-control policy, said while cancer still claims the most Canadian lives, she's pleased to see death rates decline. "The good news is that overall (cancer) death rates have been going down for Canadians, but it's unfortunate that cancer continues to be the leading cause of death," said Chappell, noting the death rate for cancer dropped 3.7 per cent between 2000 and 2004.

Heart disease death rates dropped 16.3 per cent in the same period. "It's just not decreasing as fast as some other diseases, which is why it's still No. 1." However, for people between the ages of 15 and 34, cancer placed third. Accidental deaths accounted for the majority of deaths in that age demographic, while suicide was cited as the second-leading cause of death. Chappell said that although cancer isn't at the top of the list for the younger age group, it is still the largest disease-related threat. Canadians aged 45 to 54 are the first age group to have cancer and heart disease as their two main causes of death. Cancer's death rate is highest -- at 47.7 per cent -- in the 55-to-64 age bracket.

For those older than 64, cancer death rates were lower, with 43.3 per cent of deaths being attributed to the disease for those between 65 and 74. Cancer rates then take a large dip for those aged 85 and older, at just 14.5 per cent of all deaths. The top three causes of death for the overall population remained the same for both men and women, and the ranking of three other conditions -- diabetes, kidney disease and pneumonia or influenza -- was also the same.The main differences for 2004 are found in accidental deaths and suicide, which ranked No. 4 and No. 7, respectively for men. For females, accidents ranked No. 7 and suicide barely cracked the top 10. Men were also three times more likely to take their own lives than females. Women, however, accounted for 70 per cent of deaths related to Alzheimer's disease.

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