New Top Causes of Death Revealed

The final numbers are in for the leading causes of death in 2008, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Heart disease ranked as the top cause of death in 2008, followed by cancer. Strokes, which have ranked as the third-leading cause of death since the 1950s, fell to fourth place.

Chronic lower respiratory diseases, which include chronic bronchitis and emphysema, rose from its fourth-place rank in 2007 to third in 2008.

Suicide replaced septicemia (a widespread bacterial infection) as the 10th leading cause of death.

The fifth through ninth leading causes were, respectively: accidents (unintentional injuries), Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes (including both Type 1 and 2), influenza and pneumonia, and kidney disease.

The report noted that the rankings are limited in that the causes are considered in broad terms. For example, lung cancer falls into the category of all cancers, but would rank third on the overall list if it was considered separately. Motor vehicle accidents, which fall in with all accidents, would rank 10th.

Together, the 10 leading causes of death accounted for 76 percent of all deaths in the U.S., the report said.

Three causes saw declines in the number of deaths between 2007 and 2008. The number of deaths from unintentional injuries fell by 1.5 percent; deaths from stroke dropped 1.3 percent; and diabetes deaths declined by 1.2 percent.

The other leading causes of death all saw increases in the number of deaths, the report said. The biggest increases were in deaths due to Alzheimer’s disease (rising by 10.5 percent), lower respiratory diseases (10.3 percent), influenza and pneumonia (6.8 percent) and suicide (4.2 percent).

The report is based on data from all death certificates filed in the 50 states and the District of Columbia in 2008. The CDC released a preliminary report on 2008 deaths in December 2010; at that time, the changes in the rankings of the top 10 were not reported.

Melonie Heron, in the CDC's division of vital statistics, authored the report, which was published on Wednesday (June 6).

Pass it on: A new CDC report places heart disease and cancer as the top two causes of death in 2008.

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