Health Scene: Life Expectancy Up, But So is Cancer

Cancer is the leading cause of death among Israelis, who are living almost a decade longer on average than they did 30 years ago.

David Lev ,

Rambam Hospital
Rambam Hospital
Flash 90

On the eve of Rosh Hashana 5772, life expectancy in Israel was nine years longer on average than it had been 30 years earlier. A report released Thursday by the Health Ministry's for Disease Control said that at the end of 2008, the last full year for which statistics were collected, the average Israeli man lived for 79.1 years, while life expectancy for women was 83 years. While life expectancies were higher for both men and women, the gap between the genders has grown; in 1978, women lived just two years longer than men, as opposed to the current 3.7 years.

The leading cause of death in Israel, by far, is cancer, with a full quarter of all deaths attributed to various forms of cancer. The most widespread forms of the disease are breast cancer for women, representing 30% of all cases of cancer in women, with men suffering most from prostate cancer, which accounts for 21% of all male cancer cases. Cancer rates have jumped in the past 30 years, with 37% more Jewish men contracting cancer, and 27% more Jewish women. Among Arabs, as they have prospered and adapted to Israel's Western society in the past three decades, cancer rates have soared; 140% for Arab man, and 150% for Arab women.

In some better news, though, the report said that deaths from heart attacks and strokes were down for all Israelis. Overall, heart disease is the second leading cause of death among Israelis, with 18% succumbing to heart attacks and other related conditions. Sixty three percent fewer men die from heart disease today than did three decades ago, while 68% fewer women died from heart conditions than previously. Death from strokes are down, as well – by 62.7% for Jewish men and 75% for Jewish women, and by 58% for Arab men and 62% for Arab women.

The third leading cause of death for all Israelis is diabetes, which kills 6.3% of the population. The report also noted that there had been a sharp decline in the past 30 years from infectious diseases. In addition, the study said, 34.5% of the population was overweight. Regarding smoking, it added, 31.3% of Israelis smoke – but among Israeli Arab men, that figure was 48.8%.