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For over a decade, heart disease has consistently ranked as the leading cause of death among men and women. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over a half-million U.S. adults die from heart disease each year. While heart disease remains problematic, a new study has found that cancer now tops the list as the leading cause of death in high-income countries.

After analyzing the health data of high-income countries, researchers discovered that over half of all deaths among middle-aged men and women were attributed to cancer. To put that number into perspective, just one-quarter of all deaths among middle-aged men and women were attributed to heart disease.

It's important to note that this study specifically focused on high-income countries. It didn't look at low-income countries. Nonetheless, the results were somewhat surprising considering that heart disease is widely recognized as the leading cause of death.

So, why do men and women in high-income countries have such a high risk of developing cancer? Researchers were reluctant to theorize on the causation. Rather, they only found that men and women living in high-income countries were more likely to die from cancer than any other disease or medical condition, including heart disease.

Of course, there are over a dozen different types of cancer, some of the most common of which include breast cancer, skin cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, lung cancer, leukemia and lymphoma. While each type of cancer is unique in its own way, they are all characterized by the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells. When cancer begins to develop, old cells don't die, nor are they absorbed and processed by the body. Instead, they grow uncontrollably to create large masses of tissue, which are also known as tumors.

When speaking about the study, Dr. Darryl Leong explained that the findings aren't necessarily bad. He says it indicates that efforts to curb heart disease are working.

"In some respects, this is a good news story. It suggests that efforts to treat blood pressure, cholesterol, and cardiovascular disease are meeting with some success," said the study's author and researcher Dr. Darryl Leong.

There are several things you can do to lower your risk of both heart disease and cancer, one of which is to follow a balanced diet that includes plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits. Additionally, exercising for at least 75 to 150 minutes per week can lower your risk of heart disease and cancer.

This study was published in the medical journal The Lancet.

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