| CNN – Cancer will replace heart disease as the leading cause of death in the U.S. within two years, says a new CDC study published Monday in the medical journal Annals of Internal Medicine.
“We’re just on the cusp of the transition from heart disease to cancer as the leading cause of death,” said Dr. Latha Palaniappan, lead author of the study and an internist, professor and clinical researcher at Stanford University Medical Center.
A decades-old theory described a shift that occurred in health and disease patterns in the United States during the last century. Early in the 100-year period, infectious diseases including tuberculosis, diphtheria, and flu took more American lives than other illnesses.
Yet by the end of the century, chronic diseases, including heart disease and cancer, had become the leading cause of death. The theory described these complex patterns and suggested that such shifts stemmed from economic and social conditions.
Recent data suggests that the nation is experiencing a new transition, this time within the chronic disease category itself. To understand these changes, Stanford Medical School researchers examined more than 32 million death records across 3,143 American counties for 2003 through 2015.
The research team looked not only at medical information but at demographic data, including income and race.
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Over the 13-year study period, the mortality rate decreased in the total population by 12%, from about 823 deaths per every 100,000 people to roughly 724 deaths per 100,000.
In more than three-quarters of all counties (79%), heart disease was the leading cause of death in 2003, yet this remained true for only 59% of counties in 2015.