Is Cancer on its way to Becoming the Top KILLER of Americans?

Michelle Wolff
By: Michelle Wolff


Up until the early 1990s, Heart disease was the leading cause of death in the United States. However, since the year 2000, cancer has become seemingly more problematic. Currently, it rests as the number one cause of death in twenty-two (nearly half!) of the U.S.’s fifty states.

The decrease in heart disease-related deaths is a direct result of the development of new technologies; although that does not mean heart disease has completely faded into the background. The drop in heart-related deaths is also a result of improved treatment practices. Many people still have the disease, but now with improved medications, can live with it. 
The caveat to this is that while modern medicine has given us the ability to live longer lives, it has also increased our risk for cancer. Cancer emanates with aging, so now that people are living longer, it is inevitable that more people will acquire the disease. Interestingly enough, the population that lives in the states with cancer as their No. 1 cause of death seems to be healthier overall. This is likely because they have outlived other causes of mortality, and therefore presumably get cancer as a result of aging.

Furthermore, cancer is starting to be seen as the number one killer among certain minority groups. According to the CDC, from 2000-2014, the number of cancer deaths in the non-Hispanic API population increased by 79%, and replaced heart disease as the leading cause of death in 2000. A family trend is seen within the Hispanic population where cancer deaths increased by 72% in 2000-2014 and became the number one leader of death in 2009.

One main issue with reducing cancer is that it is a multifaceted disease, comprising itself of several diseases. This makes it considerably harder to do research and develop prevention and treatment techniques. On the other hand, heart disease is a far narrower branch of medicine and scientists have already been able to develop a bevy of effective treatments.

Despite the decrease in heart-related deaths, the disease, much like cancer, remains prevalent. Many of the risk factors for heart disease assimilate with cancer such as smoking and poor diet. Obesity also poses as a major risk for both diseases. The only way to really see a decrease in both cancer and heart-borne illnesses would be for people to reduce their risk by eating healthier, exercising, and avoiding smoking. With modern science still struggling to catch up to the overwhelmingly negative impacts of these diseases, self-preventative treatment is at the very least a viable start.


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