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Causes of Death Among American Indians and Alaska Natives

Photo of a Native American mother with her two daughters

Death records and cancer incidence records were linked with Indian Health Service registration data to identify AI/AN people correctly, as they are often incorrectly reported as being members of other racial groups.

CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control sponsored a supplemental issue of the American Journal of Public Health about the leading causes of death among American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) populations. The authors are experts from many different fields.

Death records and cancer incidence records were linked with Indian Health Service registration data to identify AI/AN people correctly, as they are often incorrectly reported as being members of other racial groups. Previous studies show that nearly 30% of people who identify themselves as AI/AN when living are classified as another race at the time of death. This linkage resulted in the most reliable data to date on causes of death among AI/AN people.

This linkage and analysis highlight several key findings. Overall, death rates are 50% higher among AI/AN people than non-Hispanic white people. Death rates have declined among non-Hispanic white people, but not among AI/AN people. Their death rates are higher for some preventable causes of death, especially for unintentional injury, suicide, diabetes, chronic liver disease, certain cancers, and alcohol-related mortality. See the press release.

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