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Cancer has replaced cardiovascular disease as the commonest cause of avoidable mortality

A recent analysis of causes of potentially avoidable deaths in England and Wales by the Mortality Team at the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that cardiovascular diseases were the largest cause of avoidable deaths between 2001 and 2006. In 2007, cancers became the leading cause of avoidable deaths and have remained so since then.

This change in ranking has occurred because deaths from cardiovascular diseases have been falling for many years. Deaths from cancer in contrast have been falling much more slowly than deaths from cardiovascular disease and cancer has therefore now become the commonest cause of avoidable deaths. The rapid decline in age-standardised death rates from cardiovascular diseases have been driven by a range of factors. These include medical (e.g. statins) and surgical treatments (e.g. angioplasty); and changes in lifestyle (such as a reduction in the prevalence of smoking).

The findings of this very useful analysis by the ONS illustrate the need to maintain improvements in the management of cardiovascular disease and its risk factors. There is also a clear need to reduce deaths from cancer through lifestyle changes (such as reducing rates of smoking and obesity); improved uptake of cancer screening programmes; and better management of cancer by the NHS.

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