U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration

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Leading Causes of Death

In 2006, there were 1,224,322 deaths of females in the United States. Of these deaths, nearly half were attributable to heart disease and malignant neoplasms (cancer), responsible for 25.8 and 22.0 percent of deaths, respectively. The next two leading causes of death were cerebrovascular diseases (stroke), which accounted for 6.7 percent of deaths, and chronic lower respiratory disease, which accounted for 5.3 percent. Among females aged 1–34 years of age, unintentional injury was the leading cause of death (data not shown).

Heart disease was the leading cause of death for women in most racial and ethnic groups; the exceptions were non-Hispanic Asian/Pacific Islander and non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native females, for whom the leading cause of death was cancer. One of the most noticeable differences in leading causes of death by race and ethnicity is that diabetes mellitus was the eighth leading cause of death among non-Hispanic White females, while it was the fourth among all other racial and ethnic groups. Similarly, chronic lower respiratory disease was the fourth leading cause of death among non-Hispanic White females while it ranked sixth or seventh among other racial and ethnic groups. Death in the perinatal period was the ninth leading cause of death among Hispanic females, accounting for 2.1 percent of deaths, and hypertension was the tenth leading cause among non-Hispanic Asian/Pacific Islander females, accounting for 1.6 percent of deaths (data not shown). Also noteworthy is that non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native females experienced a higher proportion of deaths due to unintentional injury (8.2 percent) and liver disease (4.1 percent; seventh leading cause of death) than females of other racial and ethnic groups.

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