Why Cancer Is the No. 1 Killer Among Hispanics

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    According to the American Cancer Society, one particular group now suffers more from cancer-related deaths than deaths from heart disease – and the rest of the country may be only a few years behind.

    Cancer has overtaken heart disease as the primary killer among Hispanics in the U.S., and while death rates for both cancer and heart disease have been dropping for everyone, heart disease deaths have fallen faster, largely because of improved treatment and prevention, including the development of cholesterol-lowering drugs.

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    Overall, cancer will probably replace heart disease as the nation’s top cause of death in the next 10 years, said Rebecca Siegel of the American Cancer Society, lead author of a study reporting the new findings.

    Government health statisticians think the crossover point could be reached as early as this year, or at least in the next two or three years.

    The reason it has already happened among Hispanics is that they are younger on average than non-Hispanic whites and blacks. And cancer tends to kill people earlier in life than heart disease, for decades the nation’s top cause of death.

    The shift could bring about a change in disease-prevention efforts, government spending priorities and people’s attitudes.

    “We’ve been so focused on heart disease mortality for so long. … This may change the way people look at their risk,” said Robert Anderson, who oversees the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control branch that monitors death statistics.

    The study is being published in the September/October issue of a cancer society publication, CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

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