Nearly 75% of all deaths in the US are attributed to just 10 causes, with the top 3 of these accounting for over 50% of all deaths. Over the last five years, the main causes of death in the US have remained fairly consistent, although unintentional injuries (accidents) became the fourth leading cause of death in 2013, while stroke became the fifth.
The most recent data (2013) reveals that annually there were 2,596,993 deaths registered in the US, which equates to:1,2,41,44
- 1,306,034 males
- 1,290,959 females
- An age-adjusted death rate, which accounts for the aging population, of 731.9 deaths per 100,000 US standard population
- A life expectancy at birth of around 78.8 years.
Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the US, accounting for 1 in every 4 deaths, and affecting significantly more men than women.
Contents of this article:
You will also see introductions at the end of some sections to any recent developments that have been covered by MNT's news stories. Also look out for links to information about related conditions.
Top 10 leading causes of death
The top 10 leading causes of death in the US are below together with the most recent statistics and facts, together they accounted for 73.6% of deaths in 2013:44
Annually there are around 2,596,993 deaths registered in the US with the leading top 10 causes accounting for nearly 75% of all deaths.
- Heart disease
- Cancer (malignant neoplasms)
- Chronic lower respiratory disease
- Accidents (unintentional injuries)
- Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases)
- Alzheimer's disease
- Diabetes (diabetes mellitus)
- Influenza and pneumonia
- Kidney disease (nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis)
- Suicide (intentional self-harm).
Top 10 leading causes of death in more detail
Death rates below are calculated on an annual basis per 100,000 of estimated population. Age-adjusted rates are used to compare relative mortality risks among groups and over time.
1: Heart disease
- Deaths: 611,105
- Males: 321,347
- Females: 289,758
- Rate: 193.3
- Age-adjusted rate: 169.8
- Percentage of total deaths: 23.53%.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the US and also the leading cause of death worldwide. More than half of the deaths that occur as a result of heart disease are in men.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US with around 611,105 deaths each year.
Coronary heart disease costs the US $108.9 billion each year and is the most common type of heart disease.3
Together, heart disease and stroke cost more than $312.6 billion in health care expenditures and lost productivity annually.45
Heart disease is a term used to describe several conditions, many of which are related to plaque buildup in the walls of the arteries.
As the plaque builds up, the arteries narrow, making it more difficult for blood to flow and creating a risk for heart attack or stroke.4
The key to preventing death from heart disease is to protect the heart and know the warning signs and symptoms of a heart attack.
Major warning signs and symptoms of heart attack
Some of the following signs and symptoms can materialize before a heart attack:
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Pain or discomfort in the upper body, arms, neck, jaw or upper stomach
- Cold sweats.
Protecting the heart
- Follow instructions to ensure safe use of medications and any over the counter drugs
- Eating a diet that is low in salt, refined sugars, total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol and high in fresh fruits and vegetables
- Exercise regularly (at least 150 minutes a week). For example, take a brisk 10 minute walk three times a day, five days a week
- Avoid excessive intake of alcohol
- Quit smoking
- Take steps to reduce stress levels, or get help with stress management.
Recent developments on heart disease from MNT news
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US, claiming around 1 million lives every year. But a new review published in The Cochrane Library suggests that stem cell therapy may be effective against the condition.
A study finds that hospitalization and death rates from heart disease and stroke declined in 1999-2011. Researchers say this is down to better diagnosis, treatment and lifestyle.
2: Cancer (malignant neoplasms)
- Deaths: 584,881
- Males: 307,559
- Females: 277,322
- Rate: 185
- Age-adjusted rate: 163.2
- Percentage of total deaths: 22.52%.
Cancer affects people of all genders, ages, races and ethnicities.5 The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimate the total costs of cancer in 2009 were $216.6 billion: $86.6 billion for direct medical costs and $130.0 billion for indirect mortality costs.
Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the US with around 584,881 deaths each year.
Cancer is a group of diseases characterized by the uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells. If the spread is not controlled, it can interfere with essential life-sustaining systems and result in death.
Anyone can develop cancer, but the risk of most types of cancer increases with age, and some individuals have higher or lower risk due to differences in exposure to carcinogens (such as from smoking) and as a result of genetic factors.6
Lung cancer accounts for more deaths than any other cancer in both men and women, with cancer of the trachea, bronchus and lungs listed as the cause of death for 156,252 in 2013.
In 2015, there will be an estimated 1,658,370 new cancer cases diagnosed and 589,430 cancer deaths in the US.
Estimated cancer-related deaths for 2015
Leading causes of death from cancer for males:46-48
- Lung and bronchus - 86,380
- Prostate - 27,540
- Colon and rectum - 26,100
- Pancreas - 20,710
- Liver and intrahepatic bile duct - 17,030
- Leukemia - 14,210
- Esophagus - 12,600
- Urinary bladder - 11,510
- Non-Hodgkin lymphoma - 11,480
- Kidney and renal pelvis - 9,070.
Although not a leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men, 2,350 new cases of breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in men in 2015, and 440 deaths.
Leading causes of death from cancer for females:46-48
- Lung and bronchus - 71,660
- Breast - 40,290
- Colon and rectum - 23,600
- Pancreas - 19,850
- Ovary - 14,180
- Leukemia - 10,240
- Uterine corpus - 10,170
- Non-Hodgkin lymphoma - 8,310
- Liver and intrahepatic bile duct - 7,520
- Brain and other nervous system - 6,380.
Can cancer be prevented?
A substantial proportion of cancers are preventable, and all cancers caused by cigarette smoking and heavy use of alcohol could be prevented. Smoking contributes to an estimated 80% and 90% of deaths in men and women respectively.
The World Cancer Research Fund has estimated that up to one-third of cancer cases that occur in economically developed countries like the US are related to being overweight, obese, inactive (sedentary) or having poor nutrition. These are all potentially preventable.
Particular cancers are related to infectious agents such as human papillomavirus (HPV), hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) - these may be prevented through behavioral changes and use of protective vaccinations and antibiotic treatments.
Many of the more than 3 million skin cancer cases that are diagnosed annually could be prevented by protecting skin from excessive sun exposure and avoiding indoor tanning.
Screening offers the ability for secondary prevention by detecting cancer early, before symptoms appear. Early detection usually results in better outcomes and a decreased need for extensive and invasive treatment.
Screening for colorectal and cervical cancers can prevent cancer by allowing for detection and removal of pre-cancerous lesions.
To improve early detection of potential tumors, people are encouraged to regularly carry out personal examinations of their breasts, skin and testicles (where applicable).
Recent developments on cancer from MNT news
Research published in the American Journal of Physiology, suggests exercise may boost the tumor-shrinking effects of chemotherapy.
For patients with advanced small cell lung cancer, chest radiation therapy in combination with conventional treatment may significantly increase long-term survival and reduce recurrence of the disease. This is according to a study published in The Lancet.
3: Chronic lower respiratory disease
- Deaths: 149,205
- Males: 70,317
- Females: 78,888
- Rate: 47.2
- Age-adjusted rate: 42.1
- Percentage of total deaths: 5.74%.
Chronic lower respiratory disease (CLRD) is a collection of lung diseases that cause airflow blockage and breathing-related issues, including primarily chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) but also bronchitis, emphysema and asthma.7
CLRD is the third leading cause of death in the US with around 149,205 deaths each year.
A study released by The American College of Chest Physicians (CHEST) estimated that 16.4 million days of work were lost annually because of COPD, and total absenteeism costs were $3.9 billion. Of the medical costs, 18% was paid for by private insurance, 51% by Medicare, and 25% by Medicaid. National medical costs are projected to increase from $32.1 billion in 2010 to $49.0 billion in 2020.8,9
Major warning signs and symptoms of COPD
Signs and symptoms of COPD may include:
- Difficulty breathing (breathlessness), especially when active
- A persistent cough with phlegm
- Frequent chest infections.
How can COPD be prevented?
In the US, tobacco smoke is a key factor in the development and progression of COPD, although exposure to air pollutants in the home and workplace, genetic factors, and respiratory infections also play a role.7
Smoking is a primary risk factor of COPD, and approximately 80% of COPD deaths can be attributed to smoking.10
To prevent COPD:11
- Quit smoking
- Avoid second-hand smoke
- Avoid air pollution
- Avoid chemical fumes
- Avoid dust.
Recent developments on COPD from MNT news
The FDA have approved the once-daily inhaled drug olodaterol (brand name Striverdi Respimat), a long-acting beta-agonist, for the treatment of airflow obstruction in COPD patients.
COPD is a progressive disease that causes irreversible damage to the lungs. Now, a new study reveals that doctors are missing chances to diagnose the condition early.
On the next page we look at numbers 4 to 7 in our list of the 10 leading causes of death in the US.