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Death Risk Charts Put Disease Risk in Context

Charts give 10-year risk of death based on age, sex and smoking status

THURSDAY, June 12 (HealthDay News) -- Simple charts that give the 10-year risk of death based on age, sex and smoking status could help put disease risk in context and help patients decide where to focus on reducing risk, researchers report in the June 18 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Steven Woloshin, M.D., from Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H., and colleagues determined the 10-year risk of death based on age, sex and smoking status from various causes using 2004 data from the U.S. Census and the National Center for Health Statistics Multiple Cause of Death Public Use File.

The researchers found that the risk of death from all causes was higher for men than women at all ages. For men, smoking increased the risk of death to a similar extent as a five- to 10-year increase in age. For men who never smoked, heart disease was the most common cause of death from 50 years of age on, exceeding the likelihood of dying from lung, colon and prostate cancers combined at any age. For women who never smoked, the risk of dying from breast cancer and heart disease were similar until 60 years of age, after which heart disease was the biggest killer. Women who currently smoke had a higher risk of dying of heart disease or lung cancer than from breast cancer from age 40 on, the report indicates.

"The risk charts provide two basic elements that people need if they are to make sense of the health threats they face: the magnitude of the risk and some context," Woloshin and colleagues conclude. "We hope that the availability of these simple charts will facilitate physician-patient discussion about disease risk and help people understand where to focus risk reduction efforts."

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