Maryland owns the gloomy distinction of leading the nation in cancer deaths. According to the American Cancer Society, nearly 10,000 state residents will die from the illness this year. That's roughly one out of every 500 Marylanders. No wonder state officials have launched a campaign to prevent the disease -- its centerpiece being the new 20-cents-a-pack increase in Maryland's cigarette tax.
Of course, the fight against cancer should be no less than an all-out effort. However, a new study by a local research team suggests that the state, in its vigor to stem the number of deaths from cancer, may be overlooking an even more prolific killer.
Dr. Stephen Havas and other researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine have reported that almost 13,000 Marylanders die from heart disease every year -- about 3,000 more than the number who perish from cancer. The study also found that another 2,400 state residents annually die of stroke. The scientists concluded that Maryland's death rates for cancer, heart disease and stroke are well above the national averages.