Local News

Cancer Leading Cause of Death in N.C.

Posted November 19, 2007

— Cancer has replaced heart disease as the leading cause of death in North Carolina, officials said Monday.

Mortality data for 2006 show that heart disease dropped to second place as a cause of death in the state for the first time in nearly 90 years. Heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death nationally.

Cancer accounted for 17, 267 deaths of the total of 74,419 resident deaths in North Carolina last year, or about 195 deaths per 100,000 people. Heart disease accounted for 17,189 deaths, or 194 deaths per 100,000 people.

Heart disease death rates have been declining dramatically since the early 1980s. Cancer death rates have also been declining, but much more slowly.

Since 1990, the overall death rate for heart disease in North Carolina declined by more than 30 percent, compared with a decline in the cancer death rate of under 2 percent, officials said.

“The decline in deaths from heart disease is good news,” State Health Director Dr. Leah Devlin said in a statement, “especially since about half of the decrease appears to be linked to improvements in major risk factors."

Such factors include smoking, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, diet and exercise.

“People can also greatly reduce their risk of dying from heart disease and cancer by getting the right health screenings on a regular basis – blood pressure checks, cholesterol checks and cancer screenings," Devlin said. "For women, those screenings should include mammograms and Pap tests. Men should have prostate checks, and both men and women should talk to their doctors about other appropriate cancer screenings for colorectal, prostate and skin cancers."

The leading causes of death statewide differed by gender, age and ethnicity in 2006:

  • For males, the leading cause of death was cancer, but heart disease continued to be the leading cause of death for females.
  • As in 2005, heart disease remained the leading cause of death for North Carolinians ages 65 and over.
  • While cancer was the leading cause of death for non-Hispanics, whites and African Americans in 2006, heart disease remained the leading cause of death for American Indians.
  • As in 2005, the leading cause of death for Hispanics was motor vehicle injuries.

The 2006 rankings of all other causes of death in the state remained unchanged from 2005. The No. 3 cause of death in 2006 was stroke (4,551 deaths), followed by chronic lower respiratory diseases (4,004 deaths), unintentional injuries not including motor vehicle injuries (2,425), Alzheimer’s disease (2,258), diabetes (2,230), pneumonia and influenza (1,699), unintentional motor vehicle injuries (1,666) and kidney disease (1,631).


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  • purplerado Nov 20, 2007

    The American Institute for Cancer Research just put out a report on the risk factors for cancer and what you can do to prevent it: http://www.dietandcancerreport.org/downloads/Second_Expert_Report.pdf
    Excess weight increases the risk for colon, kidney, pancreas, esophagus, uterine and breast cancer. They said you could reduce your chances by being normal weight; be physically active; don't eat foods high in calories, fat and sugar; eat mostly fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans; limit red meat and avoid ALL processed meat; limit alcohol and salt. I only read a summary of the report, but I would bet that they didn't discuss the role of all the toxins that we take in everyday, from pollution, processed foods and other sources. These toxins contribute to obesity as well as being carcinogenic. The best defense is to practice regular nutritional cleansing, which will help keep the weight off, the toxins out, energy and wellbeing up, and the body working the way it was designed to!

  • drh3102 Nov 20, 2007

    I think that the facts are misleading with this story. North Carolina has some of the best Cancer treatment centers in the world. People from all over the United States and the world are coming to NC for the best treatment available. Some of them die. When they die here death certificates are filled out and the cause of death is listed. Cancer deaths are up in NC but they are not all folks that would normally be in or live in North Carolina.

  • Dominion Nov 20, 2007

    readme - You raise a good point and ask some good questions. I don't know that they can be answered very easily though. I can say that the past few years have seen a huge push in promoting good heart health and that may have contributed to the decrease in heart disease. And when it comes to cancer, it's just a little harder to tell people what to do to "avoid" cancer other than the obvious things like not smoking, drinking less, or avoiding extended sun exposure. I think increased standards on quality control for consumer products would help out a bit!

  • doodad Nov 20, 2007


  • doodad Nov 20, 2007

    opps, 0.005micrograms estrogen/500grams from non-implanted steer

  • doodad Nov 20, 2007

    animallover, I replied to you yesterday in the Heather Mills comments but you must have not read them.

    There are no growth hormones used in growing poultry or swine. The FDA does not allow it. All beef does not contain synthetic growth hormones, and the hormones used in dairy cows to increase milk production is a protein hormone that is digested, not absorbed to signal the brain like testosterone or estrogen.

    FYI: Soybean oil contains 1000micrograms of estrogen/500grams vs beef from growth implanted steer 0.007 microgroms estrogen/500grams or 0.005 micrograms estrogen/500grams and milk has 0.065 micrograms estrogen/500grams.

    Consider the amount of soy protein and soy products used in processed foods and used to cook foods. I believe soy is responsible for early puberty and infertility in males.

    Manufacturers and processers are adding chemicals to foods and using cheap ingredients for more profits (partially hydrogenated vegetable oils and preservatives).

  • readme Nov 20, 2007

    There is no information in the article about what might be causing the trends. Is it because more people ar doing things that cause cancer? Is it because we are better at treating heart conditions? Is this what reporting has come to - just gather some statistics and report them without any intelligent observations or interpretation? it's not just WRAL; NPR did the same sloppy job this morning. If there's a reason we are not interpreting data or drawing conclusions, then a sentence would be warranted explaining it don't you think?

  • CestLaVie Nov 20, 2007

    Amen, Dominion.

  • Dominion Nov 20, 2007

    I hope everyone knows that the first part of my post was very sarcastic and in response to previous posts regarding NC being the tobacco state as support to why cancer would be the leading cause of death. I completely agree that we need to look at a much broader spectrum when it comes to our health and my earlier rant deals with that. Everyone has collectively jumped on the tobacco-haters bandwagon, but continued to ignore the millions of other chemicals being loaded into the food we eat everyday! If you ask me, I think tobacco should be the least of our worries at this point!

  • CestLaVie Nov 20, 2007

    Dominion: The tobacco state we are, but maybe MOST of the tobacco farmers don't smoke the stuff they grow! It was probably just a pure cash crop to them, with all the subsidies involved for decades.

    This problem is not limited to fast food restaurants. What about all the pesticides sprayed on our food supply to keep it bug-free? All the growth-hormones fed to animals to promote larger and heavier? All the garbage added to foods to promote fresh and longer shelf life? All the junk dumped into our oceans, lakes, rivers, etc. that pollute them & then we eat the stuff that comes from these same sources?? Come on people - WAKE UP!! These are the things we are ACCEPTING and they are KILLING us.

    ALL of the industries that promote ALL of these products do NOT WANT you to know this. Just because they spend billions of dollars to convince you otherwise, they are lying. Greed & profit is THEIR bottom-line; yours is to survive, in a healthy manner, not sickly.