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Leading Causes of Death

In 2003, there were over 1.2 million deaths among females. Of these deaths, nearly half were attributed to diseases of the heart and malignant neoplasms (cancer), with 348,994 and 268,912 deaths, respectively. The next two leading causes of death were cerebrovascular diseases (stroke), which accounted for 7.7 percent of all female deaths, followed by chronic lower respiratory diseases which accounted for 5.3 percent.

While age-adjusted death rates varied for women by race and ethnic group, the leading causes were the same for each population: heart disease and cancer. Age-adjusted death rates for four of the top five causes were highest among non-Hispanic Black women, followed by non-Hispanic White women and Hispanic women. The exception was chronic lower respiratory diseases, which caused the highest rate of deaths among non-Hispanic White women, followed by American Indian/Alaska Native women and non-Hispanic Black women.

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Women's Health USA 2006 is not copyrighted. Readers are free to duplicate and use all or part of the information contained on this page. Suggested Citation: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Women's Health USA 2006. Rockville, Maryland: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2006.