Cancer continues to be the leading cause of death in Israel, but rates from most causes are falling as life expectancy rises, concluded a Health Ministry report released for publication on Tuesday morning.

The statistical report on the “leading causes of death in Israel” covers the decade from 1999 through 2009 and is based on raw data from the Central Bureau of Statistics.

While in the 90s, cardiovascular disease used to be the leading cause of death, prevention and better treatment for heart diseases have made it a less common cause, allowing cancers to take over. Death rates from strokes, heart disease, road accidents and respiratory diseases declined by a quarter between 1999 and 2001 – a bit more in men than in women. Death from complications due to diabetes declined by a tenth during the same period.

But, according to the report, deaths from pneumonia and other complications of influenza increased between 2007 and 2009 by a third. In addition, Alzheimer’s disease became a more common cause of death, with its rate rising by a third.

Death rates in Israel – 497 per 100,000 residents – was lower than in the US and most European countries. The Israeli rates are close to those in Italy (496) and significantly lower than the US rate of 626.

While cancer is the leading cause of death not only in Israel but also in the US and most countries in Europe, heart disease is first in Finland, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, Germany, Austria, Poland and the Czech Republic, with cancer the second most common cause.

In Israel, complications due to diabetes are third, followed by strokes, while in all European countries, stroke comes out on top of diabetes complications. Kidney disease is rated fifth in Israel as a cause of death. Other common causes of death are respiratory diseases, accidents, hypertension and – lower down – suicides.

Murder was the sixth most common cause of death in men aged 25 to 44, while the fifth cause in this group was “unintentional poisoning,” possibly connected to taking drugs, the authors wrote.

Cancer was the most common cause of death in men and women between 65 and 74 and since 2008, the most common cause in men over 75. Cardiovascular disease is the most common among women over the age of 75, as heart problems begin in women at an older age than in men.

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