Study: COVID-19 has officially joined the United States as the leading cause of death from heart disease and cancer for two years in a row.
The virus was the third leading cause of death for the period between the start of the pandemic in March 2020 and October 2021, according to an analysis of national death certificate data by US National Cancer Institute (NCI) researchers.
COVID-19 was responsible for one in eight deaths during the study period. Heart disease was first and cancer was second, totaling about 1.3 million deaths. Accidents and strokes rounded out the top five, the researchers reported in an NCI news release.
Breaking down the study periods into 2020 (March to December) and 2021 (January to October), the investigators found that coronavirus was the fourth and fifth leading cause of death in 2020 for people aged 45 to 54 and 35 to 44, respectively. In 2021, it became the first and second leading cause of death in these age groups.
Among people aged 85 and older, the virus was the second leading cause of death in 2020 and third in 2021, which may be due to vaccination efforts among these older adults, the NCI team noted.
In every age group, ages 15 and older, COVID-19 was one of the top five causes of death, according to the researchers, led by Meredith Shiels of the NCI’s Department of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics.
Deaths from other causes – including heart disease, accidents, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and diabetes – increased from 2019 to 2020, possibly because people were reluctant to seek medical care for fear of infecting COVID-19, investigators said. , Additional illustration of the virus’s impact on the health of Americans.
Researchers said the virus could have other effects in future years, such as preventing many people from getting regular cancer screenings during the first months of the pandemic, which could result in an increase in cancer deaths in the future.