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Health
Heart disease and cancer are top killers in Indian Country


Heart disease and cancer are the leading causes of death in Indian Country, according to a new report.

Heart disease caused nearly 20 percent of deaths among American Indians and Alaska Natives in 2004, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last week. Cancer closely followed, accounting for 18 percent of deaths.

The same top two killers were seen among other racial and ethnic groups in the U.S.. But Native Americans were less likely to die of heart disease cancer than Whites, African-Americans and Asian-Americans, according to the data.

However, Native Americans were more than twice as likely to die of accidents than other racial and ethnic group. Unintentional injuries accounted for 11.6 percent of American Indian and Alaska Native deaths, compared to 4.7 percent for Whites and 4.4 for African-Americans.

Native Americans were also twice as likely to die from diabetes than whites, the CDC report said. Comparable rates were seen among African-Americans and Asian-Americans.

Suicide ranked as the eight leading cause of death in Indian Country, accounting for 3.1 percent of deaths in 2004. This was more than twice the rate among Whites (1.4 percent) and far higher than that of African-Americans (0.7 percent).

American Indians and Alaska Natives also had a higher HIV death rate (0.6 percent) than Whites (0.3 percent). But both were dwarfed by the extremely high rate among African-Americans (2.5 percent).

Few differences were seen when the data was examined by gender. Heart disease and cancer were the leading causes of death for Native men and Native women and for men and women of other racial and ethnic groups.

The data was reported in "Deaths: Leading Causes for 2004," which was released by the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics on November 20. It follows earlier reports that showed heart disease and cancer were the leading causes of death in Indian Country and have been on the rise despite drops seen among other racial and ethnic groups.

Earlier this year, the CDC said American Indians and Alaska Natives have the highest prevalence of heart disease than any other racial or ethnic group. Risk factors include diabetes and obesity, which are high among Native Americans, and tobacco use, which is high among certain Native populations.

In October, the CDC, the National Cancer Institute and other researchers released the first comprehensive look at cancer rates among Native Americans. The report found that American Indians and Alaska Natives suffer from cancer at rates lower than the general population but significant geographic differences were detected across Indian Country.

Tobacco use, alcohol use, obesity and diabetes are risk factors associated with cancer.

Table: Top 10 Causes of Death among American Indians and Alaska Natives:
1. Heart Disease - 19.8 percent
2. Cancer - 18.2 percent
3. Accidents - 11.6 percent
4. Diabetes - 5.7 percent
5. Brain disease - 4.4 percent
6. Liver disease and cirrhosis - 4.4 percent
7. Lower respiratory diseases - 3.7 percent
8. Suicide - 3.1 percent
9. Influenza and pneumonia - 2.2 percent
10. Kidney disease - 1.9 percent

Get the Report:
Deaths: Leading Causes for 2004 (November 20, 2007)

Earlier Reports:
Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer (October 15, 2007) | Prevalence of Heart Disease --- United States, 2005 (February 16, 2007)

Relevant Links:
National Center for Health Statistics, CDC - http://www.cdc.gov/nchs

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