The number of potentially preventable deaths declined from 2010 to 2014 for three of the five leading causes of death in the Unites States, but deaths from chronic lower respiratory diseases like asthma and COPD were unchanged, CDC researchers estimate.

In 2014, the five leading causes of death for people under age 80 were diseases of the heart, cancers, stroke, chronic lower respiratory diseases (including asthma and COPD), and unintentional injuries (accidents).

These causes accounted for 63% of deaths from all causes in that year. CDC estimates that 15 percent of these cancer deaths, 30% of these heart-disease deaths, 43% of these unintentional-injury deaths, 36% of these chronic lower respiratory diseases deaths, and 28% of these stroke deaths were preventable.

Compared with 2010, in 2014:

  • Potentially preventable deaths from cancer decreased 25% (driven by a 12% decrease in the age-adjusted death rate from lung cancer).
  • Potentially preventable deaths from stroke decreased 11%.
  • Potentially preventable deaths from heart disease decreased 4%.
  • Potentially preventable deaths from unintentional injuries increased 23% (largely due to deaths from drug poisoning and falls).
  • Potentially preventable deaths from chronic lower respiratory diseases increased 1% (a small, statistically nonsignificant increase).

“Fewer Americans are dying young from preventable causes of death,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD MPH. “Tragically, deaths from overdose are increasing because of the opioid epidemic, and there are still large differences between states in all preventable causes of death, indicating that many more lives can be saved through use of prevention and treatment available today.”

Preventable death estimates are an important public-health tool that help state and federal officials establish prevention goals, priorities, and strategies. Health care providers can prevent premature deaths by offering preventive services such as counseling patients on how to quit smoking, how to prevent heart disease and stroke, and how to avoid unintentional injuries.

“These results are intended for states to better understand the national picture to help them improve local prevention efforts,” said Captain Michael Iademarco, director of CDC’s Center for Surveillance, Epidemiology, and Laboratory Services.”