Leading causes of death in the Western World.

A discussion of cancer, heart disease, dementia, and infectious diseases.

In the 3rd world infant mortality, infectious diseases, malarial and parasitic diseases create a different game.

I would be hesitant to say infectious diseases in the top 4 because infections frequently intervene when there is something underlying so I don’t know how the cause of death is counted.

Why quibble, however.



6 responses to “Leading causes of death in the Western World.

  1. Worthless article. One might as well say the leading cause of death is age and the changes it brings. Infectious diseases are the exception but there the major problems are political e.g. malaria. The section on heart disease is especially laughable. The author appears to be unaware of the many technological changes that have revolutionized the treatment of acute coronary syndromes and instead focuses on epidemiological factors that have never demonstrated any significant effect on anything.

  2. Reality Observer

    Well, you count it as infectious disease if they have one when they die. Maybe they would have lasted for another couple months of starvation without the infection. Of course, in such cases, the *ultimate* cause of death (the one that started them on the downhill slide – or never let them get up in the first place) is meddling “progressive” do-gooders.

  3. As a cantankerous old fart, I will say this, define your terms!
    “The ’cause’ of Death is a cessation of bodily functions.”
    “Death is ’caused’ by the body functions ceasing.”

    There are four ‘Means/Manners of Death’.
    1. Natural
    2. Accidental
    3. Suicide
    4. Homicide

    In the ICD-10, there are about 70,000 factors that contribute, in one way or another, the can lead to ‘Death’ and could be listed on a Death Certificate as contributing to the cessation of bodily functions.

    Then there is this:


    “A Scripps Howard News Service study of 4.9 million cause-of-death records for the years 2005 and 2006 from the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed a disturbing conclusion:

    Medical experts think about 30 percent of the death diagnoses were either incorrect, fraudulent or just somebody’s wild guess.

    That means our knowledge of what’s killing Americans — and more than 2.4 million of us die each year — is not terribly accurate.

    How can they make meaningful measurements of the impact of anything on death when 30 percent of the “causes of death” are errors?

    • ernestncurtis

      Gary, it’s probably more like 50% or greater rate of inaccurate diagnoses for cause of death on official death certificates. There were a couple of studies done in leading teaching hospitals comparing the clinical diagnosis for cause of death with the cause determined by detailed autopsy examination. There was about a 30% error in these clinical diagnoses where the patients had been in the hospital under observation and had extensive testing done so it’s anybody’s guess what the true figures are for people who die outside the hospital. That’s why any statistics on cause of death are completely unreliable.

  4. Many claims are made about the number of deaths ’caused’ by smoking and the expenses that are ’caused’ by such deaths.

    ‘Contribute to’ does NOT mean ’caused’.
    An opinion is just a guess and not a certain proof.

    “Instructions for Completing the Cause-of-Death Section of the Death Certificate”


    Check “Yes” if, in your opinion, the use of tobacco contributed to death

    Part I (Chain of events leading directly to death)

    Only one cause should be entered on each line. Line a MUST ALWAYS have an entry. DO NOT leave blank. Additional lines may be added if necessary.

    If the condition on Line a resulted from an underlying condition, put the underlying condition on Line b, and so on, until the full sequence is reported. ALWAYS enter the underlying cause of death on the lowest used line in Part I.

    • The terminal event (e.g., cardiac arrest or respiratory arrest) should not be used. If a mechanism of death seems most appropriate to you for Line a, then you must always list its cause(s) on the line(s) below it (e.g., cardiac arrest due to coronary artery atherosclerosis or cardiac arrest due to blunt impact to chest).

    • If an organ system failure such as congestive heart failure, hepatic failure, renal failure, or respiratory failure is listed as a cause of death, always report its etiology on the line(s) beneath it (e.g., renal failure due to Type I diabetes mellitus).

    • When indicating neoplasms as a cause of death, include the following: 1) primary site or that the primary site is unknown, 2) benign or malignant, 3) cell type or that the cell type is unknown, 4) grade of neoplasm, and 5) part or lobe of organ affected. Example: a primary well-differentiated squamous cell carcinoma, lung, left upper lobe.

    Part II (Other significant conditions)
    • Enter all diseases or conditions contributing to death that were not reported in the chain of events in Part I and that did not result in the underlying cause of death. See examples.

    • If two or more possible sequences resulted in death, or if two conditions seem to have added together, report in Part I the one that, in your opinion, most directly caused death. Report in Part II the other conditions or diseases.

    Check “Yes” if, in your opinion, the use of tobacco contributed to death. Tobacco use may contribute to deaths due to a wide variety of diseases; for example, tobacco use contributes to many deaths due to emphysema or lung cancer and some heart disease and cancers of the head and neck.
    Check “No” if, in your clinical judgment, tobacco use did not contribute to this particular death.

    32. PART I. Enter the chain of events—diseases, injuries, or complications—that directly caused the death.

    PART II. Enter other significant conditions contributing to death but not resulting in the underlying cause given in PART I.
    For instance: Diabetes, Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, smoking


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