Causes Of Death: 1900 vs. 2010

Here's a nifty little chart from the New England Journal of Medicine that shows how far we've come, and how far we still need to go, in the field of medicine over the last hundred and ten years.

It's surprising to note how much more cancer we deal with nowadays, and how heart disease rates have risen despite all the advances we've made in the realm of cardiology.

Enjoy a weekend free of gastrointestinal infections everyone!


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The cancer thing is not surprising at all. Almost everybody has at least one relative that died of or just had cancer. It's literally everywhere.

And the heart diseases is because of unhealthy lifestyles. I don't think I need to remember you that the so-called first world is fat, although that's not the only thing.

The cancer thing is also related to our current lifestyles. Most things are cancerous in some way (some more than others, of course).

Probably the next goal in medicine (without forgetting actually curing the diseases) is preventive medicine and education. If we can't cure a disease, let's try not to have it.
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Nice and interesting little chart!

It would be difficult to draw conclusions about the state of medicine from it though, because there are a lot of other factors to take into account.

For one, life expectancy in 1900 was around 47 years in the US, versus 78 years in 2010. This means that people in 1900 may have died of tuberculosis before the onset of cancer or heart disease.

Then, there's the diagnosis problem. A lot of the types of cancer that we can identify today weren't known or diagnosable in 1900, so people could have died from cancer and the death could be attributed to something else (e.g. senility).
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There's a good reason why we're seeing an increase in cancer -- because people are living longer! It's not that there's an epidemic of cancer, but rather an increase in the average life span of people from 1900 to 2010. In 1900, the avg age of death was 45; in 2010, it's 75.

Cancer is a disease of old age. If you're not dying from vaccine-preventable diseases and have access to antibiotics, then you're probably gonna end up dying from something like cancer or heart disease. Once we solve those, then people will start dying from kidney disease, pneumonia and falls due to osteoporosis.

Something will get us eventually. A mere increase in ratio doesn't constitute an epidemic.
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