If they cured cancer, what would people die of?

In the rush to find a cure for cancer, I sometimes detect the sense that if we could only cure it, people wouldn’t die. Of course this is a falacy, but in the hypothetical event that cancer no longer killed people, after heart disease (I assume), what would be our most common cause of death? Epidemiologists must have played with this idea for a while, but I can’t find much about it. Dopers?

Probably these:

Final 2000 data
Ten Leading Causes of Death in the U.S.:
Heart Disease: 710,760
Cancer: 553,091
Stroke: 167661
Chronic Lower Respiratory Disease: 122,009
Accidents: 97,900
Diabetes: 69,301
Pneumonia/Influenza: 65,313
Alzheimer’s Disease: 49,558
Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 37,251
Septicemia: 31,224

Take out the cancer line, and they’d probably be spread through this list. Don’t know what is lurking beneath the Top Ten to replace “septicemia,” though.


According to them that should know, the top 10 causes of death in the USA in 2000 were:

So if they cure cancer, strokes would move up a notch, I guess.

I’d a beat you if I hadn’t put that quote frame in.

See http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/releases/02facts/final2000.htm

Check any almanac, or infoplease, but IIRC accidents are strong runners-up. And we would probably see a strong upswing in accident mortalities as the population gets older (from no cancer or heart disease).

Engy - that’s the kind of thinking that I was hoping to discover. It’s easy to find the leading causes of mortality today, but with the eradication of cancers would come some changes in lifestyles - less obsession with staying out of the sun, differences in eating habits, etc. So I’m wondering what the speculation about that type of situation looks like, particularly around issues of mortality.

Diabetes (Type II) is on the rise because of obesity. High blood pressure - which can lead to stroke - is on the rise because of obeisty. While still only a blip, there are a number of bacteria which have become resistant to common antibiotics.

Cancer more often strikes in mid-life or beyond. Eliminate cancer and you’ll still have middle-age people who are gaining wieght, catching infections, etc.

[attempted hijack]


all this gun control hysteria over the death of less than 30K a year?! more than twice that are killed by the FLU!!!

GAAHK!! I think I’m having a STROKE about this!!

[/attempted hijack]

Let’s not have a gun debate or rant in this forum, okay?

moderator GQ

So when they do this counting where would a death like my father’s show up.

His death certificate said he died of 1) cardiac arrest caused by 2) saddle pulmonary embolism caused by 3) metastatic pancreatic cancer.

Can’t say… probably “general organ failure” or something.
Reminds me of the last line in an old sci-fi story - everything but cancer has been cured, and this guy has it. His friend is the head of medical research someplace, and it turns out they’ve found a cure. Guy says “Great!” but his friend says he has to get rid of it.

“But I need that!” “Yes, and eventually, so will I”

However, I don’t think we’re anywhere close to that yet. :slight_smile:

Eventually, as so called “natural” causes of death are eliminated, accidental and willfull death will be the only things left. The people of the future will likely use technology and bio-engineering to make their bodies even tougher, and harder to kill. Someday only proton decay and energy loss to the cold dark of space will be fatal. Both are rather slow processes however. We might find a way to use the energy of the exansion of space in some way to eliminate even those as causes of death.

easy answer: people.

Hmmm I understand how this works now…

Basically the number one killer of people (in America) under the age of 60 is Heart Disease (710,760) so if you live past 60, its pretty much a sure bet that you wont die of a heart attack because most likely its the Cancer (553,091) that will get ya. But if you happen to get old enuf that Cancer doesnt become a factor in your life expectancy, you’d probably end up with a Stroke (167661) and if you life past that, you be so frikken old that you would probably develop Chronic Lower Respiratory Disease (122,009) like emphasema or something, However IF you are just lucky enuf to get past those horrid natural diseases, you have to watch out for Accidents (97,900) that claim a lot of you old foggies, especially you octogeneric drivers. If you live past that and still eat those candies, beware of Diabetes (69,301) but chances are that at your dvanced age something so common like Influenza/Pneumonia (65,313) could do you in.

and if youre STILL around after all of that, you dont have to worry about absolutely anything at all ever again…because you now have Alzheimer’s Disease (49,558) and you dont even know if youve soiled yourself or not.

Alzheimer’s Disease is by no means a given: Some people will get it, a lot of others won’t. We learned that when we renamed it and stopped the old practice of calling it `senile dementia.’

Nanoda, I might be an ignorant Doper, but can you explain that little blurb? I don’t get it at all.

Anyway, if you begin to chip away at causes of death (as we’ve been doing with increasing speed since 1900), two things happen: Life expectancy increases (duh) and other causes of death begin to claim more by default.

X~Slayer pretty much sums up the second point: People in the 1800s who ate fatty foods and drank like fish avoided dying of their lifestyles because smallpox or a runaway horse or standing in a long line dressed in red while people shot at them killed them off first.

Are we running out of causes of death? Not really. We’ll always have accident, if absolutely nothing else, and massive systemic failure will probably begin to claim more lives. Your bits and pieces will only hold out for so long, and 100-120 years of use is about their limit assuming nothing gets to them first.

The chief causes of death change a lot with age. Young folks would still die of accidents, suicide and homicide. Old folks would die of heart and lung disease-- which would include complications from diabetes and strokes.

I remember reading somewhere that if all cancers were eradicated, the average life expectancy would only go up by about four years.

Even if the average life expectancy goes up, won’t about the same number of people die each year? The long-term mortality rate will still hold steady at 100%…

So it would be interesting to see how we replaced so many deaths from Cancer and heart disease.

Bah. I knew I’d cut that down too much. I think the point was that we all need to die of something eventually, just hopefully not that soon. Which doesn’t really tie in with the OP, but I’m making no apologies. :stuck_out_tongue: