Background: Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) and cancer are worldwide main causes of death with mortality trends varying across countries with different levels of economic development.
Design and methods: We analysed trends in CVD and cancer mortality for 37 European countries, five high-income non-European countries and four leading emerging economies (BRICS) using data from the World Health Organization database for the period 1980-2010.
Results: In high-income countries, CVD mortality trends are characterized by steep declines over the last decades, while a downward trend in cancer mortality started more recently and was less pronounced. This resulted in the gradual convergence of the CVD and cancer mortality rates, and the latter are already higher in some countries. The absolute number of CVD deaths decreased in most settings, while cancer deaths increased in nearly all countries. Among the BRICS, China and South Africa share a similar pattern of no meaningful variation in both CVD and cancer age-standardized mortality rates and an increase in the overall number of deaths by these causes. Brazil presents trends similar to those of high-income countries, except for the still increasing number of CVD deaths.
Conclusions: The substantial decreases in CVD mortality over the last decades have overcome the impact of the growth and ageing of populations in the overall number of deaths, while stabilization in the number of cancer deaths was observed only in some of the high-income countries.
Keywords: Cardiovascular diseases; mortality; neoplasms; trends.
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