New Featured Study in Women’s Health Issues: Does Heart Disease or Cancer Kill More US Women?

Health advocates have worked to inform women that although they may be concerned about cancer, heart disease is the top cause of death for U.S. women. However, when she examined top causes of death for women of different ages, researcher Dr. Elizabeth Pathak found women who died before age 65 were more likely to be killed by cancer than by heart disease. This is among the findings from the Editor’s Choice study in the latest issue of the journal Women’s Health Issues, “Is Heart Disease or Cancer the Leading Cause of Death in United States Women?

Dr. Pathak, who conducted the research while at the University of South Florida, used National Vital Statistics System death certificate data from 2000 to 2013 to compare causes of death for women of different ages and of different racial and ethnic backgrounds. She found that although heart disease was the leading cause of death for all U.S. women age 15 and older, that was not the case for all racial or ethnic groups.  While heart disease is still the leading cause of death for non-Hispanic White and non-Hispanic Black women, she reported, “Cancer has surpassed heart disease as the leading cause of death for Hispanics, Asians and Pacific Islanders, and American Indians and Alaska Natives.”

“The relative mortality burden of heart disease versus cancer in United States women cannot be properly understood without detailed consideration of age and race and ethnicity,” Dr. Pathak concluded.

The full text of this Editor’s Choice article is available for free on the Women’s Health Issues website. Editor’s Choice articles from past issues are listed on the Free Editor’s Choice Collection page. Women’s Health Issues is the peer-reviewed journal of the Jacobs Institute of Women’s Health, which is part of the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University.