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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 July 2006, 13:56 GMT 14:56 UK
Cancer and suicide blight Europe
graph showing causes of death for middle-aged people
Cancer is the biggest cause of death for middle-aged people in the European Union, while transport accidents and suicide top the list for young adults.

But circulatory disease remains the biggest cause of death for all age-groups taken together, according to the latest statistics from the EU.

The figures, for the years 2001-3, show big variations between member states.

Middle-aged deaths from cancer are most common in Central Europe, while suicide rates are highest in the Baltic states.

Overall, circulatory diseases were responsible for 41% of all deaths, cancer for 15%, respiratory diseases for 8%, and external causes - such as accidents, homicide and suicide - for 5%.

Lung and breast cancer

Transport accidents were the biggest killer for under-20s (27%), but for the 20-44 age group, suicide was almost as common (12% compared to 13% of deaths).

graph showing causes of death for young adults
Men in the 20-44 age group were four times more likely than women to kill themselves.

In the 45-64 age group, cancer accounted for 41% of deaths.

Cancers of the respiratory system were responsible for an average of 106 deaths per 100,000 men in this age range - but there were wide variations, from 39 in Sweden to 236 in Hungary.

Breast cancer was the most common fatal cancer among middle-aged women, with rates varying from 38 per 100,000 in Greece and Spain, to 66 in Denmark.

The UK was below average for respiratory system cancer deaths among middle-aged men (68 per 100,000), but above average for breast cancer deaths among women in this age-group (53 deaths per 100,000).

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