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WNY leads upstate in cancer deaths Places second in heart disease, Univera reports

Heart disease and cancer are upstate New York's most frequent killers, causing half of all deaths from 2003 to 2005, according to a report on death statistics compiled by Univera Healthcare and issued today.

And Western New York is the leader for cancer deaths and second for heart disease when compared to other regions.

The findings coincide with a recently updated report from Univera on the consumption of health care dollars.

That report identified heart disease and cancer as the two most expensive health conditions, representing 16.9 percent of all direct health care spending in the United States.

However, it noted that the most common actual causes of death are tobacco use, poor diet and physical inactivity -- all risk factors for heart disease and cancer.

"This new report reinforces the reality that lifestyle choices directly influence regional mortality rates," Dr. Robert J. Holzhauer, vice president and chief medical officer at Univera, said in a statement.

From 2003 to 2005, the top six causes of death in this region were heart disease, 30.3 percent; cancer, 22.9 percent; stroke, 5.9 percent; chronic lower respiratory disease, 5.2 percent; diabetes, 2.6 percent; and accidents, 2.5 percent.

While heart disease and cancer cause the highest number of deaths overall, the leading causes of death across the state vary by age group. Birth defects and premature births, for instance, are the leading causes of death before age 1.

Other items from the report:

Among five regions, Western New York had the highest death rate for cancer in upstate New York and the second highest death rate for heart disease.

Western New York, by a small margin, also ranked highest for prevalence of obesity.

"By understanding how health statistics compare across our upstate communities and with statewide and national averages, we can identify opportunities to improve health outcomes through community education and prevention efforts," Holzhauer said.

e-mail: hdavis@buffnews.com

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