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Swiss mortality atlas Where you live could determine how you die

Higher prevalence of smoking among women in French-speaking Switzerland puts the region at great risk of lung cancer


Researchers have developed a mortality atlas for Switzerland based on cause of death. German-speakers were more likely to die from a heart attack while lung cancer was the Achilles heel for French-speakers. 

Scientists from the Basel-based Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute as well as the University of Basel examined some of the biggest killers of Swiss residents from 2008 to 2012 to identify trends in mortality distribution. 

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People from German-speaking Switzerland were more likely to die from cardiovascular diseases. Such diseases were alone responsible for 36% of all Swiss deaths from 2008 to 2012. Particularly vulnerable were those from eastern Swiss cantons of St. Gallen, Glarus, Thurgau and Appenzell. Rural Swiss were more prone to heart disease than their urban counterparts. 

However, when it came to lung cancer, it was residents in the French-speaking region who were more vulnerable. It was the most prevalent type of cancer among the Swiss population, and the researchers blamed attitudes toward smoking for the differences. They believed that the higher prevalence of smoking among French-speakers, especially among women, could account for the high mortality rate in that region. 

Men from the Italian-speaking region of Ticino had a significantly lower risk of developing prostate cancer. Researchers attribute this to Mediterranean diet and lifestyle. However, Italian-speakers were not so lucky when it came to gastric cancer, which the scientists felt could be explained by the prevalence of a resistant strain of bacteria called Helicobacter pylori which causes stomach ulcers. 

People from Graubunden and Valais were more prone to chronic respiratory diseases, while residents from urban Zurich and the Lake Geneva region were less vulnerable. Mortality due to Alzheimer’s disease was higher in the French- and Italian-speaking parts of Switzerland.

 Men from rural areas were more likely commit suicide or to have a motor vehicle accident than urban men. French-speaking women aged 30 to 74 years and men aged 30 to 44 years were more likely to die from intentional self-harm.

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