Cancer overtakes heart disease as biggest killer in many European countries

Chest X-ray

Although cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the biggest killer worldwide, cancer is now the main cause of death in many European countries. 

Using the latest data available for each country, researchers have calculated that CVD is responsible for more than 4 million deaths each year, or 45% of all deaths, in Europe. Overall, cancer is responsible for less than half that number. 

But the data, published in the European Heart Journal (online, 14 August 2016)[1]
show that in 12 countries CVD now accounts for far fewer deaths than cancer in men, owing to improvements in prevention and treatment. These countries are: Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, the UK, Norway and Israel. The researchers also found that more women die from cancer than they do from CVD in Denmark and Israel.

Nick Townsend, senior researcher at the British Heart Foundation’s Centre on Population Approaches for Non-Communicable Disease Prevention at the University of Oxford, who led the research, says: “These figures highlight the wide inequalities between European countries in deaths from CVD.

“The 12 countries in which cancer has overtaken CVD as the main cause of death are all found in Western Europe, with nine of them having been members of the EU before 2004. The highest numbers of deaths from CVD tend to be seen in Eastern European countries,” he adds. 

Of the total number of deaths in countries that joined the EU before 2004, 33% are caused by CVD, compared with 38% of deaths in countries that joined later and 54% of deaths in non-EU member countries. Similar inequalities exist for premature deaths (deaths in people younger than 75), with the proportion of premature deaths attributable to CVD 21.4%, 26% and 35.8% respectively. 


[1] Townsend N, Wilson L, Bhatnagar P et al. Cardiovascular disease in Europe: epidemiological update 2016. European Heart Journal 2016. doi: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehw334

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, Cancer overtakes heart disease as biggest killer in many European countries;Online:DOI:10.1211/PJ.2016.20201578

You may also be interested in