Scots have highest UK death rates from both heart disease and cancer

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SCOTS have the highest rates of deaths from heart disease and cancer in the UK, figures reveal.

Heart disease and stroke are the biggest killers of men, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) - but more women die from cancer.

The report revealed Scotland has higher deaths from both these diseases than anywhere else in the UK.

Heart and circulatory disease - which also includes disease caused by high blood pressure - is responsible for 231 deaths per 100,000 men across the UK, but stands at 267 per 100,000 in Scotland.

Cancer among women results in 159 deaths per 100,000 population across the UK, but 181 per 100,000 in Scotland, according to the ONS data.

But despite these rates, deaths from cancer have been falling in Scotland.

Figures last month showed that death rates in Scotland have fallen by 9 per cent in the last decade - down 14 per cent in men and 6 per cent in women - with improvements in diagnosis and treatment believed to be behind better survival.

At the same time there have been falls in numbers dying from heart problems.

The ONS said comparing health in the UK with the European Union, life expectancy for men in 2008 was 77.4 years - more than a year higher than the EU average of 76.1 years.

The report also found that one in five adults in the UK smokes, with 26 per cent of men in Northern Ireland smoking (the highest proportion) and 20 per cent of men in Wales.

Among women, the highest proportion of smokers live in Scotland (24 per cent) while the lowest live in England (20 per cent). Scotland has more GPs - eight per 10,000 - than anywhere else in the UK, with Wales and Northern Ireland having 6.5 and England seven.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) said the figures were misleading because heart disease still actually killed more people - men and women - than any other disease.

Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director at the BHF, said: "These data are based on calculation involving a notional 'standard' European population. But when actual numbers of deaths are counted in the UK, heart and circulatory disease still kills more men and women than cancer."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "Health in Scotland is improving but not quickly enough. As today's statistics show, other parts of the UK are doing better in some areas and this clearly demonstrates that we can, and must, do more to help Scots live healthy lives."