Cancer has overtaken heart disease to become the leading cause of death among high-income countries (HIC) according to a study published in The Lancet. In parallel to this claim, it was also found that individuals in low to middle income countries (LMIC) suffer more predominantly from cardiac conditions.
Such data rings true for India, whose top spot for causes of death, cardiac disease, claimed the lives of 28.1 percent of the total deaths for 2016. As such, cardiac disease is one of the most prominent health concerns in the nation.
According to the study cardiac disease remains the leading cause of mortality among middle aged adults globally, accounting for forty percent of all deaths, but this is no longer the case in HIC, where cancer is now responsible for twice as many deaths.
“The world is witnessing a new epidemiologic transition among the different categories of non-communicable diseases (NCD), with cardiovascular disease (CVD) no longer the leading cause of death in HIC,” said Dr. Gilles Dagenais, Emeritus Professor at Laval University, Quebec, Canada and lead author of the first report. “Our report found cancer to be the second most common cause of death globally in 2017, accounting for 26 percent of all deaths. But as CVD rates continue to fall, cancer could likely become the leading cause of death worldwide, within just a few decades.”
The study found that a number of influences play a role in high rates of heart disease in LMICs. Among these are household air pollution, poor diet, low education, and low grip strength. Many of these issues are far less prevalent in HICs, resulting in lower rates of CVD. However, cancer rates have elevated as life expectancies have increased, thus taking the top spots for causes of death.
While the study highlights that heart disease — an already widely known cause for concern in India — is among the country’s more pressing issues, it also offers insight into potential future medical issues.
Cancer is fast approaching heart disease as the most prominent cause of death in India. With around thirteen percent of deaths each year being caused by cancer, this may eventually become India’s most prolific cause of death. By knowing this information sooner, rather than later, alterations could be made to medical infrastructure to accommodate India’s ever growing number of cancer patients. Such a move would help alleviate the burden caused by the disease, and would improve cure rates if early detection if prioritised. Though, such a move would not come without a considerable financial investment.