Is Heart Disease or Cancer the Leading Cause of Death in United States Women? Ovarian Cancer and Us OVARIAN CANCER and US Ovarian Cancer and Us

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Monday, October 10, 2016

Is Heart Disease or Cancer the Leading Cause of Death in United States Women?



This paper compares the mortality burden of heart disease versus cancer among women by age, race, and ethnicity.


U.S. death and population data for the years 2000 through 2013 were used to calculate heart disease and cancer death rates. Detailed analyses focused on age (15–19 years old to ≥100 years old) and race and ethnicity (Whites, Blacks, Hispanics, Asians and Pacific Islanders (A/PIs), and American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/ANs)).


Among women aged 15 years and older, there were 289,467 heart disease deaths and 276,716 cancer deaths in 2013. The majority of heart disease deaths (51.6%) occurred among women 85 years or older, compared with 18.9% of female cancer deaths. The age-adjusted death rates (per 100,000 population) were 171 (95% confidence interval [CI], 170–171) for heart disease versus 177 (95% CI, 176–178) for cancer. For all racial and ethnic groups, cancer mortality was significantly higher than heart disease mortality among women younger than 80 years of age. For all ages combined, cancer deaths exceeded heart disease deaths among Hispanics, A/PIs, and AI/ANs. Black non-Hispanic women were the only racial/ethnic group who had a higher age-adjusted death rate for heart disease than for cancer: 224 (95% CI, 222–226) versus 207 (95% CI, 205–209).


Heart disease remains the leading cause of death among all women combined in the United States by a narrow margin. However, cancer predominantly kills middle-aged and young women, whereas heart disease predominantly kills the very old. New research on the over reporting of heart disease on death certificates for elderly women is needed. National summary statistics obscure the fact that cancer is already the overall leading cause of death for Hispanic women, Asian and Pacific Islander women, and American Indian and Alaska Native women.
Disclosures: The author is a past recipient of research funding from the American Heart Association. She has no other interests, financial or otherwise, to declare. This study was unfunded, and all data analyzed are in the public domain.


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