Cancer Passes Heart Disease as NC’s Top Killer

Cancer is now the leading cause of death in North Carolina, according to newly released statistics from the North Carolina Division of Public Health. Cancer claimed the lives of 17,476 people in 2009, while heart disease was responsible for 17,133 deaths.

“Cancer and heart disease have consistently ranked highest in their toll on the people of North Carolina,” said State Health Director Jeffrey Engel, MD.  “For the most part, these are preventable diseases, so we must continue to educate our citizens about lifestyle changes they can make to stay healthier.”

The most deadly cancers were lung and throat cancer, colorectal cancer and breast cancer, comprising 46 percent (8,076) of the total cancer deaths. Information prepared by the State Center for Health Statistics show more men (9,356) than women (8,120) died of cancer last year. Heart disease remains the top killer among women.

The Cancer Prevention and Control Branch is responsible for leading implementation of the statewide cancer plan, developed by the North Carolina Advisory Committee on Cancer Coordination and Control. The N.C. Division of Public Health recently merged all of its cancer programs into the Control Branch, which supports local health departments, hospitals, community organizations and statewide partners in the prevention, early detection and treatment of cancer.

CLICK HERE for more information on the leading causes of death in North Carolina as well as specific breakdowns of top killers by age group. For information on cancer prevention and resources in NC, visit


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