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15 top killers of Americans
January 11th, 2012
12:01 PM ET

15 top killers of Americans

The leading killers of Americans continue to be non-infectious diseases like heart disease, strokes and lung diseases.

But one of the perpetual causes of death fell off the top 15 list this year: Homicides.

“Most of the changes were positive,” said Sherry Murphy, a statistician at the National Center of Health Statistics and one of the authors of the annual mortality report.  “Homicides fell from among the 15 leading causes for the first time since 1965.”


The rest of the common killers remained fairly consistent compared with 2009, according to the report released Wednesday. The death rate in the United States dropped slightly from 749.6 deaths per 100,000 in 2009 to 746.2 deaths per 100,000.

The life expectancy in the United States inched up a tiny bit from 78.6 years in 2009 to 78.7 years in 2010.

The leading causes of death in 2010 remained nearly the same as in 2009  - kidney diseases became the 8th leading cause of death –- it had been 9th in the previous year.  It swapped spots with flu and pneumonia.

The 15th leading killer is pneumonitis due to solids and liquids, an illness more likely to strike the elderly.  This is inflammation of the lungs due to inhaling substance inside the lung such as dust, mold or inhalants.

Here are the top 15 killers:

1. Diseases of heart
2. Malignant neoplasms (cancer)
3. Chronic lower respiratory diseases (such as chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma)
4. Cerebrovascular diseases (stroke)
5. Accidents (any injuries that are unintentional)
6. Alzheimer’s disease
7. Diabetes mellitus
8. Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome and nephrosis (kidney disease)
9. Influenza and pneumonia
10. Intentional self-harm (suicide)
11. Septicemia
12. Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis
13. Essential hypertension and hypertensive renal disease
14. Parkinson’s disease
15. Pneumonitis due to solids and liquids


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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.