Cancer has overtaken heart disease as the No. 1 killer among Hispanics in the U.S., and the rest of the country may be only a few years behind.

The change is not exactly cause for alarm. Death rates for both cancer and heart disease have been dropping for Hispanics and everyone else. It's just that heart disease deaths have fallen faster because of improved treatment and prevention, including the development of cholesterol-lowering drugs.

According to the American Cancer Society, cancer will probably replace heart disease as the nation's top cause of death in the next 10 years.

The reason it has already happened among Hispanics is that they are younger on average than non-Hispanic whites and blacks. And cancer tends to kill people earlier in life than heart disease, for decades the nation's top cause of death.

The findings are part of a study being published in the September/October issue of a cancer society publication, CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.


(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)