Breast cancer survival rates have rocketed
BATTLE: Heart disease a bigger killer
Heart disease is now ahead of breast cancer as a killer of older women.
Experts put it down to the fact that treatment for breast cancer has become so effective.
Researchers followed the lives of more than 60,000 women with breast cancer for nine years to see how the disease developed and then checked their survivals rates.
They found that half of the women -- who were 66 or over -- in the study died during the period. But only a third of those died from the cancer -- the biggest cause of death was heart disease.
The researchers found that 15.9pc of those followed died from cardiovascular disease and 15.1pc from the cancer.
Jennifer Patnaik, from the University of Colorado, who carried out the work, said: "Cancer is a big killer and is responsible for about a quarter of all deaths.
"However breast cancer is not necessarily a death sentence and patients need to take care of their health to reduce their risk of dying from heart disease and other age-related diseases."
Breast cancer accounts for almost a third of all cancer cases reported in women. However advances in the treatment for breast cancer, and early detection, have improved the chances of survival from the disease.
Researchers analysed data from a database of more than 60,000 women in the US, who were at least 66 years old and had breast cancer for on average nine years.
Almost half of the women were still alive at the end of the study. Of those who died, living on average to a respectable 83, more than two-thirds died from causes other than breast cancer.
In fact cardiovascular disease killed more women with breast cancer than the cancer itself.
Women diagnosed at a younger age, women with a high tumour grade or ER negative status, were at the greatest risk of dying from their disease.
But it was found that older women, who were more likely to have other health problems resulting from previous cancer, cardiovascular disease, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, or diabetes, were the most likely to die from causes other than their cancer.
The pattern of causes of death for these women matches that seen among older women in the general population, with cardiovascular disease being top of the list.