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In this Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2015 file photo, a nurse places a patient's chemotherapy medication on an intravenous stand at a hospital in Philadelphia. A report released on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016 says cancer is the second leading cause of death nationally, after heart disease. Cancer death rates have been falling for nearly 25 years, but heart disease death rates have been falling at a steeper rate. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
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Report: Cancer surpasses heart disease as deadliest disease in Arizona

In this Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2015 file photo, a nurse places a patient's chemotherapy medication on an intravenous stand at a hospital in Philadelphia. A report released on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016 says cancer is the second leading cause of death nationally, after heart disease. Cancer death rates have been falling for nearly 25 years, but heart disease death rates have been falling at a steeper rate. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

PHOENIX — Cancer has officially surpassed heart disease as the leading cause of death in Arizona, according to the latest report from the American Cancer Society.

Although heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death nationwide, Arizona and 21 other states have seen death rates from cancer surpass rates from heart disease.

The nationwide death rates of both diseases have been on the decline. But while cancer’s death rate has dropped 23 percent since 1991, the death rate for heart disease has crashed 46 percent during the same time.

Terry Simpson, a surgeon at Affiliated Surgical Associates, said the decreased death rates for heart disease are attributed to more effective treatments.

“We’re getting better treatment for heart disease,” he said. “And when you get a better treatment for heart disease, people are living longer, so you have a better chance of developing something else. In this case, cancer unfortunately.”

Simpson said while many people have avoided cancer diagnoses by quitting smoking and eating healthier, Arizonans are still getting cancer due to an aspect that the state is most well-known for: The sun.

“We have one of the highest incidences of Melanoma, a deadly skin cancer, in the world,” he said.  “That’s just from people not using sun block appropriately.”

The American Cancer Society predicts there will be 1.7 million new cancer cases and nearly 600,000 cancer deaths this year nationwide.

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