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Cancer has replaced heart disease as the primary cause of death for Americans younger than age 85, according to a report from the American Cancer Society. Death rates from both diseases have been declining, but greater strides have been made with heart disease. The biggest reason? Fewer people smoke. Other factors include better surgical techniques, devices, and drugs for heart disease and contributing conditions, such as hypertension.


In 2002, the most recent year for which data are available, 476,009 people died of cancer compared with 450,637 who died of heart disease. The four most common cancers, lung, colon, breast, and prostate, account for more than half of all cancer cases and half of all cancer deaths. Researchers point out that we know less about preventing cancer than we know about preventing heart disease.


To view the complete report, called "Cancer Facts & Figures 2005," visit the American Cancer Society's Web site at http://www.cancer.org and type in the name of the report in the search box.