02.06.2023 Science Policy

Topics on the global research agenda

Prevention of cardiovascular disease is more researched than cancer, study suggests

Volume de pesquisas sobre doenças cardiovasculares e câncer aumentou no mundo nas últimas duas décadas | Crédito: Fábio H. Mendes/E6 Imagens

Cancer and cardiovascular diseases are contributing ever more to the global disease burden. In 2019, they accounted for 65% of the problem. It is not by chance that over the last two decades, research with an epidemiological focus on these diseases has also increased, according to an analysis published by British scientists in the journal Scientometrics in August. The amount of studies on cardiovascular disease grew from 8.5% of global scientific output in 2001 to 15.5% in 2020. In the same period, studies on cancer rose from 8.9% to 10.2%.

The scientists also compared the global research agenda on risk factors—some of them modifiable. They found that although the impact of smoking has declined in most regions, metabolic risk factors have increased for both conditions, especially those caused by having a high body mass index (BMI).

Of the 17 countries producing the most research on cardiovascular disease, Sweden ranked highest and Germany the lowest. Brazil placed fifth. Australia and New Zealand are primarily concerned with the effects of ultraviolet radiation on both diseases and lifestyle impacts on cancer. Radiation is a subject of great interest in Eastern Europe due to its long-term effects on cancer, probably as a result of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident.

The impact of lifestyle on heart disease—but not on cancer—is the focus of research in Latin America. The effects of poverty and economic inequality are most studied in Australia, New Zealand, and North and South America, especially Brazil.

Although prevention relies heavily on government campaigns, the researchers believe that lifestyle choices, which can be influenced by information about new discoveries reported in the media, also make a difference.

The team evaluated articles published in 32 newspapers from 21 European countries between 2001 and 2013 and found that the main subjects covered were lifestyle changes, particularly exercise and the impact of being sedentary. The effects of drugs on cardiovascular disease are especially studied in Western Europe. In Eastern Europe, meanwhile, the influence of infections is given greater attention.


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