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CDC: Fewer Deaths From Chronic Disease, but Overdoses Rise

Mary Caffrey
The report did not break out the number of overdose deaths, but prior information said that 2014 had the most overdose deaths on record.
Fewer Americans than expected are dying from heart disease and cancer, but these gains are offset by rising numbers of drug overdoses, according to data released Thursday by the CDC.

The top 5 causes of preventable deaths in the United States haven’t changed from 2010 to 2014—they remain, in order, heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease, stroke, and a broad category called “unintentional injuries.” The CDC said this last category includes drug overdoses, and it was the only cause with a noticeable spike during the 5-year period.

For 2014, the CDC listed 45,331 accidental deaths as “preventable,” up from 36,836 in 2010. Drug overdoses are not broken out separately, but information released previously by the CDC said there were more overdoses in 2014 than any year on record.

The increase, the report said, “is mostly attributed to an increase in drug poisoning (overdose from prescription and illicit drugs) and falls.” The report offered no details on the causes of falls.

In heart disease and cancer, new treatments and prevention efforts are working. The number of cancer deaths rose only by 15,233 in the 5-year period despite a rapidly aging population. The number of expected cancer deaths fell by 21,234. Anticipated deaths fell slightly in heart disease, stroke, and rose by only 401 in chronic lung disease, about 1.3%; the report said this was not significant.

Accidental deaths, by contrast, stand apart.

“Given the reported increase in potentially preventable deaths from unintentional injuries, these findings might inform the selection and implementation of evidence-based interventions to prevent deaths from injuries such as falls and drug overdoses, based on epidemiological burden,” the report said.


García MC, Bastian B; Rossen LM, et al. Potentially preventable deaths among the 5 leading causes of death — United States, 2010 and 2014. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2016;65:1245-1255.

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