Dementia 'second leading cause of deaths in women'

Computer graphic of a vertical (coronal) slice through the brain of an Alzheimer patient (at left) compared with a normal brain (at right).
Image caption Dementia is much more likely to be listed as a cause of death than it was a decade ago, the figures reveal

Dementia is the second highest cause of death among women, figures show.

The data from the Office for National Statistics revealed the condition was listed as an underlying cause in one in 10 of the 250,000 deaths in 2011.

For men it was the fifth most common cause, accounting for 5% of the 235,000 deaths. The dementia figures were double those recorded a decade ago.

For both men and women the most common cause was heart disease accounting for 16% and 11% of deaths respectively.

'Health crisis'

However, the figures - compiled from death certificates which can list a number of conditions which contribute to a person's death - break cancers down into individual categories.

If all the cancers were added together they would account for 30% of deaths - over twice the number linked to heart disease.

The data on dementia reflects the fact that the condition is becoming more common as well as it being more likely to be listed on a death certificate as a contributory factor.

Nonetheless, campaigners said it illustrated the need to invest more in dementia research.

Marie Janson, of Alzheimer's Research UK, said: "These figures provide a stark reminder of the growing burden of dementia and we must take them seriously.

"Funding for research into dementia lags far behind that of other diseases - for every dementia scientist, six work on cancer. We must ensure that research into dementia remains a national priority if we are to head off this looming health crisis."

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