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Japanese women, who have the longest life spans in the world, are living even longer these days.

Their average of 85.23 years marks the first time the figure has passed 85, according to data for 2002 released by the health ministry on Friday.

Japanese women have now held the top spot for 18 straight years, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said.

The figure increased 0.3 year from 2001.

Japanese men do not live quite as long as their female counterparts. Their life expectancy is now 78.32 years, 0.25 year longer than in 2001.

That figure puts them in second place, behind men from Hong Kong.

“A big factor in the decrease in the death rate for the elderly is advanced treatment methods for cancer and stroke victims,” a ministry official said.

The survey estimates 75.9 percent of female babies born in 2002 will live until 80, while 54.2 percent of males born then will reach that age.

Half of those female babies will live to 88.02 years old, while half of the male babies die at the age of 81.28.

The report estimates that cancer will be the top killer of men and women born in 2002, followed by heart attacks and strokes.

Men could live an average 8.81 years longer and women 7.96 years if they overcome the three top killers, according to the latest report.

Close behind Japanese women are their counterparts in Hong Kong, whose life expectancy is 84.7 years on average, and those in Switzerland, where the average life span stood at 82.6 years between 1999 and 2000.

The life expectancy for Hong Kong males is 78.7 years. In the third spot are males from Iceland, whose average life span reached 78.1 years between 2000 and 2001.