Cancer Now Leading Cause of Death Except in the Very Elderly

The Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw®
Life Extension NewsTM
Volume 8 No. 2 • April 2005

Cancer Now Leading Cause of Death Except in the Very Elderly

A recent American Cancer Society report1 claims that since 1999, cancer has surpassed heart disease as the primary cause of death in Americans younger than age 85. A graph shows that between 1975 and 2001, heart disease mortality rates, starting at a much higher level than the overall cancer mortality rates, have fallen steeply in a near-linear fashion, while cancer mortality rates have stayed nearly the same. The heart disease mortality and cancer mortality lines crossed in about 1999. However, because heart disease is such an important cause of death in those over 85, the absolute number of deaths from heart disease (696,947 in 2002) is still greater than that from cancer (557,271 in 2002). Lynn Ries, a health statistician at the National Cancer Institute, says, “We have gone from six heart deaths per each cancer death in 1970 to three heart deaths per cancer death.”


  1. Twombly. News: cancer surpasses heart disease as leading cause of death for all but the very elderly. J Natl Cancer Inst 97(5):330-1 (2005).

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