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Div. of Media Relations
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Atlanta, GA 30333
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May 3, 2002
Contact: Kathryn Harben
CDC, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention
and Health Promotion
(770) 488–5131

Fact Sheet


  • During 1979-1998, the annual number of deaths from lupus rose from 879 to 1,406 and the crude death rate increased from 39 to 52 per million population, with a total of 22,861 deaths reported during this 20?year period.

  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease of connective tissue that can affect several organs. The cause of SLE is unknown. SLE accounts for 14.5% of all deaths from the more than 100 types of arthritis and can cause premature death. Approximately one third of deaths occur among men and women younger than 45.

  • CDC analysis of deaths from SLE between 1979 and 1998 found marked differences by age, sex, and race.

  • Between 1979 and 1998, death rates from SLE increased nearly 70% among black women between the ages of 45 and 64 years. Possible reasons include an increasing incidence of SLE, later diagnosis, less access to health care, less-effective treatments, and poorer compliance with treatment recommendations.

  • Of all SLE deaths, 36.4% occurred among persons between 15 and 44 years. Death rates increased with age.

  • Each year during the study period, death rates were more than 5 times higher for women than for men and more than 3 times higher for blacks than for whites.

  • Deaths may be caused by active SLE or organ failure, infection, or heart disease related to accelerated hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis).

  • Keys to preventing future deaths from SLE will require earlier recognition and diagnosis, appropriate therapeutic management, compliance with recommended treatment, and improved treatment of long-term consequences, such as accelerated hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis).

  • CDC, working with state health departments, is developing plans for state-based registry of people with SLE to monitor trends and better characterize people who have the disease.

For the full text of the CDC report, visit


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This page last updated May 2, 2002

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