Cause of Death

  • I thought a different way to approach a discussion of health and how to maintain it was to start with its opposite of disease and death.  Lets identify the leading causes of death and disease and then discuss what we can do about it.

  • In one sense death can be thought of as the ultimate disease.  There are other diseases that cause severe morbidity (disease - lack of health) but little mortality (death).  Many times they are related.  In other cases, they may be entirely separate.

  • The first table is the 15 leading causes of death in the US in 2004.  The second table is the same but broken down by age.  The 3rd diagram is a graphical comparison of death rates of cancer and heart disease broken down by two age groups - below age 85 and above age 85.  We can look at each of the pictures in more detail but basically I am going to work my way down the 1st table.  I will discuss morbidity in context.

  • Heart disease is the number one killer in the US for all ages combined.  The two peaks are 60 - 79 yrs and 80+ yrs.

  • Cancer is the number 2 killer in the US causing 23% of total deaths in 2004.  The different cancers have different causes and risk factors and therefore different preventive strategies.  Number one killer for both men and women is lung cancer.  Number two for men and women is prostate cancer and breast cancer, respectively.   Number 3 is the same for men and women and is colon cancer.

  • A second tier of cancer killers are pancreas, leukemia, and ovarian cancer.  The rest of cancers have smaller numbers of deaths and are of less significance for that fact.

  • The number 3 cause of death after cancer is cerebral vascular disease.  Many of the risk factors and preventative measures are similar for heart disease but are worth repeating.

  • Chronic lower respiratory diseases (lung diseases) is number 4 cause of death with 121,987 deaths in 2004 or 5.1% of total deaths.  Much of this is preventable.

  • Accidents at number 5, is a much harder topic to deal with as it is quite varied.

  • Number 6 is Diabetes Mellitus which is a devastating disease with markedly rising incidence and significant morbidity as wwll as mortality.

  • Alzheimer Disease is the last cause of death I will discuss.  It is also on the rise but it causes more fear that it actual numbers would support.

Cause of death table - 2004
DOD Graph

Breast Cancer 2008 - "Some cancers may go away"

Fundamentals of Cancer Prevention - David S. Alberts and Lisa M. Hess, Editors

Newsweek 2008 - Cancer Prevention


Environmental and Dietary Carcinogens and Toxins

  • Lots of information and database references

Cancer Screening - a tool with limited benefit

  • Cancer screening for the most part, has not achieved the expected benefits many times causing more harm than good.