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May 23, 2019

Cancer deaths falling among middle-aged Americans

But heart disease deaths are back on the upswing

The cancer death rate among middle-aged Americans has consistently fallen during the last two decades. At the same time, deaths from heart disease initially followed a similar trend, until they began to climb again in recent years. 

The cancer death rate of adults between ages 45 and 64 dropped by 19 percent between 1999 and 2017, according to an analysis conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The heart disease death rate among the same population initially declined by 22 percent from 1999 to 2011. But then it rose by 4 percent between 2011 and 2017. The death rate – for both cancer and heart disease – is defined as the number of deaths out of 100,000 people in one year.

The CDC published the findings Wednesday in its National Vital Statistics Reports

The disparate trends occurred despite the two causes of death sharing many common risk factors, researchers said. They pointed to a 2012 study that found the two diseases have become more interrelated because cancer treatments can contribute to survivors later getting heart disease. 

The same trends were observed among both men and women, though men die of both causes at a higher rate than women. The trends generally rang true among racial and ethnicity demographics, with one exception – the death rates of Hispanic people had periods of both decline and stability in both categories.

Overall, the cancer death rate among middle-aged adults dropped from 224.9 deaths per 100,000 people in 1999 to 182.6 per 100,000 people in 2017. 

The overall heart disease death rate among middle-aged adults stood at 164.3 deaths per 100,000 people in 1999. It fell to 127.9 deaths per 100,000 in 2011, but rose again to 133.6 deaths per 100,000 in 2017.

Upward ticks in heart disease deaths were not observed in adults younger than 44 or adults aged 65 and older. The death rate declined and then stabilized among young adults. Among seniors, the heart disease death rate dropped throughout the entire study period.

The statistics are based on information from death certificates collected by the National Center for Health Statistics. 

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