Tag: death

Evolution of the number and causes of death in Belgium (2010-2014)

Statbel, the Belgian governmental organisation for data and statistics, just released mortality data for 2014 (press release in French, dataset). The headline of their press release was that, for the first time, tumors were the first cause of death for Belgian men. Diseases of the circulatory system remains the main cause of death in Belgium, for women and for both sex together.

While the death of someone is a bad news in itself, I’m more interested here in the evolution of death causes. I’m interested in the evolution of causes of death because it might be a consequence of the evolution of the Belgian society and, as a proxy, of any (most) developed, occidental countries.

If you look at the data, the number of Belgians dying is stable and natural death is still the main cause (and also stable, around 93%). Note that if we look at data before 2010, it seems that mortality is slightly increasing since around 2005.

Evolution of the number of deaths in Belgium, all causes, 2010-2014

If the total number of deaths seems stable, the press release seemed to indicate that tumors (cancers) are on the rise, especially in men. The breakdown in categories is made following the international classification ICD-10 and, because the names of the different chapters are quite long for graphs, I will use the corresponding chapter numbers instead. Here is the key:

Chapter Header
I Certain infectious and parasitic diseases (A00-B99)
II Neoplasms (C00-D48)
III Diseases of the blood and blood-forming organs and certain disorders involving the immune mechanism (D50-D89)
IV Endocrine, nutritional and metabolic diseases (E00-E90)
V Mental and behavioural disorders (F00-F99)
VI Diseases of the nervous system (G00-G99)
VII Diseases of the eye and adnexa (H00-H59)
VIII Diseases of the ear and mastoid process (H60-H95)
IX Diseases of the circulatory system (I00-I99)
X Diseases of the respiratory system (J00-J99)
XI Diseases of the digestive system (K00-K93)
XII Diseases of the skin and subcutaneous tissue (L00-L99)
XIII Diseases of the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue (M00-M99)
XIV Diseases of the genitourinary system (N00-N99)
XV Pregnancy, childbirth and the puerperium (O00-O99)
XVI Certain conditions originating in the perinatal period (P00-P96)
XVII Congenital malformations, deformations and chromosomal abnormalities (Q00-Q99)
XVIII Symptoms, signs and abnormal clinical and laboratory findings, not elsewhere classified (R00-R99)
XX External causes of morbidity and mortality (V01-Y98)

One thing to notice is that, for chapter IV, Statbel only counts categories E00 to E88 while the WHO includes 2 more, from category E00 to E90 ; I would assume here that it has no important impact. Also note that, below, R ordered the chapters in a strange way – I’ll see how to fix that.

Excluding natural causes, we see that indeed, diseases of the circulatory system (chapter IX) are still the first cause of death, followed by neoplasms (chapter II) and diseases of the respiratory system (chapter X). If we compare the relative ratio of all these causes (second graph below), we also find the same conclusion – but the relative decline in deaths due to diseases of the circulatory system is better shown. And we can see that neoplasms take back approximately the same relative percentage of death, in 2014 (although they returned to the absolute number of deaths of 2012, approximately).

Causes of death in Belgium, 2010-2014

Causes of death in Belgium, 2010-2014, relative numbers

The available data set doesn’t go into more details than numbers by ICD-10 chapters. Therefore we cannot tell from that what kind of neoplasm is the most prevalent or what kind of infectious disease is the most present in Belgium, for instance. The press release however mentions that respiratory, colorectal and breast cancers are the top three killers and that flu was not very present in 2014.

As the cancer occurrence is increasing with age, and as the Belgian population is aging, one of the explanation for a high number of deaths due to neoplasms can be age ; however we don’t see a dramatic increase of neoplasms (fortunately!). Another potential factor is the impact of screening for cancers. Due to a very intelligent political split (sarcasm!), prevention (and therefore screening) is not a federal duty. Therefore regions started different screening programs, at different times, with different results. Screening data and their results are therefore difficult to obtain. The Belgian Cancer Registry doesn’t publish data on screening in oncology – although its latest report (revised version of April 2016) very often mentions screening as a main factor for change in the number of cases diagnosed. In its 2016 report (PDF), the Flemish Center for the Detection of Cancer (Centrum voor kankeropsporing) indicates that they increased the number of women screened for breast cancer by more than 8% between 2011 and 2015 (especially in 2015), with a quality of test between 90% and 95%. They also showed an increase in cancer diagnostics (without linking it directly to the increase in screening).

screening-flanders

This is by no means an exhaustive review of the data. There are other potentially interesting things to look at: the geographical disparities between the three regions, the gender ratio evolution (as some of these diseases are known or by definition affecting more one sex than the other), etc.

It would also be interesting to follow these trends as some changes occurred recently in the Belgian curative landscape. New drugs in cancer immunotherapy were recently authorised and reimbursed, for melanoma, lung – and other indications will follow. These costs have a price (less than what is in the press, however, I may come back on this in a future post) but they delay death (unfortunately they don’t avoid it). However, for some of them, in some indications, their administration and reimbursement is sometimes also linked with screening, testing and prior treatment failure ; that might decrease their impact on overall mortality. New drugs for Hepatitis C also arrived in 2015 and 2016 and the Belgian health minister decided to reimburse these drugs for patients in their early stage 2 of the disease. Studies showed that treating at this stage may prevent hepatitis C from progressing to later stages and, in some cases, studies showed patients cured from the disease. This is an opportunity to see a decline in mortality due to this infectious disease (although it is already quite low – compared to other diseases).

The Top 5 Killers of Men

From Delicious, I saw that Yahoo had an article about the top 5 killers of men. I thought it would be nice to see from where they get there data.

First, I have to mention that the article is really about American men, nothing else (not about mankind, not about men around the world, not about women, children, etc.). The article is related to the US National Men’s Health Week (the US National Women’s Health Week was in May 8-14, 2011). Although the article is giving advices, there are no sources of information.

However, it’s rather easy to obtain these numbers …

For the US, the CDC FastStats website is a hub to data about health in the US. Here is the CDC ranking for the top 5 killers in 2007 (in both US women and men):

  1. Heart disease: 616,067 deaths
  2. Cancer: 562,875 deaths
  3. Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 135,952 deaths
  4. Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 127,924 deaths
  5. Accidents (unintentional injuries): 123,706 deaths

If you look at the whole world (data from the UN), the picture is somehow different! The UN ranking for the top 5 killers in 2008 (in both women and men) is:

  1. Lower respiratory infections: 1.05 million deaths
  2. Diarrhoeal diseases: 0.76 million deaths
  3. HIV/AIDS: 0.72 million deaths
  4. Ischaemic heart disease: 0.57 million deaths
  5. Malaria: 0.48 million deaths

All of them causes more than 45% of deaths around the world. These diseases with high-mortality vary in an important manner when we compare the USA and the whole world. The main caveat is that the data I presented above are for men and women. It would be interesting to use the UN data API project to dig further into details.

Jamie Oliver: Teach every child about food

In the latest TED Prize wish, Jamie Oliver, the “Naked Chef”, talks about teaching every child about food. His wish is:

I wish for your help to create a strong, sustainable movement to educate every child about food, inspire families to cook again and empower people everywhere to fight obesity.

Although I have a child and I’m obviously interested in his idea, I was also interested in the simple bar chart depicting the leading causes of death in the USA. In the tiny Flash video, the text is unfortunately barely legible and I was interested in knowing where he got his data from.

Leading causes of death in the USA from Jamie Oliver's TED talk

The answer is really easy: the leading causes of death in the USA are compiled every year by the (American) National Center for Health Statistics and the results are available on their FastStats website. So, for 2007 (the latest results at the time of writing), the 15 leading causes of death in the USA are (ordered by decreasing number of cases):

Rank Cause Number
1. Diseases of heart * 616,067
2. Malignant neoplasms (cancers) * 562,875
3. Cerebrovascular diseases * 135,952
4. Chronic lower respiratory diseases 127,924
5. Accidents (unintentional injuries) 123,706
6. Alzheimer’s disease 74,632
7. Diabetes mellitus * 71,382
8. Influenza and pneumonia 52,717
9. Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome and nephrosis 46,448
10. Septicemia 34,828
11. Intentional self-harm (suicide) 34,598
12. Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis 29,165
13. Essential hypertension and hypertensive renal disease 23,965
14. Parkinson’s disease 20,058
15. Assault (homicide) 18,361

The exact ICD-10 codes are in this report ; you can find their exact meaning here. Causes with an asterisk are related to food intake, according to Jamie Oliver.

Now you have the numbers, the origin of the data and the methodology used to collect these data. You can watch the presentation:

You’ll find a critique of Jamie Oliver’s talk by Presentation Zen.