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Ranking causes of death is an informative way to present mortality statistics, supplementing other measures of mortality such as death rates and life table.  Statistical tables in this publication were prepared to serve as a reference tool for health professionals and anyone requiring information on current mortality patterns in Canada.

The present publication replaces the Leading Causes of Death at Different Ages, Canada, catalogue no. 84F0503XPB.

Previous leading causes of death publications of Statistics Canada were based on earlier versions of International Statistical Classification of Diseases (ICD). For this publication, causes of death are coded to the 10th revision of the World Health Organization's International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD–10).1

There are three series of data tables in this publication. First series of tables presents the ten leading causes of death in Canada for 10 age groups (all ages, 1 to 14, and ten–year age groups from 15 to 24 to 85 and over) by sex and for the most recent five years. The reference year for the ranking is the most recent year. Further information is available for leading causes of death ranked by five–year age groups in CANSIM table 102–0561.

Second series of tables presents the ten leading causes of infant death (less than one year old) in Canada by sex for the most recent five years. The reference year for the ranking is the most recent year. Further information is available for more leading causes of infant death in CANSIM table 102–0562.

The third series of tables presents the ten leading causes of death for Canada and each province or territory by sex, for the most recent year. The 'Canada' level data is the reference for the ranking of these ten leading causes of death. Further information is available for an expanded list of leading causes of death by province and territory in CANSIM table 102–0563.

From the approximately 8,000 ICD–10 codes valid for underlying causes of death, aggregated groups of causes of death called "short lists" were developed for use in the summary list of causes of death and to rank the leading causes of death. The short lists of ICD-10 used to rank the leading causes of death and the methodology used to select the rankable causes were developed by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) of the U.S Department of Health and Human Services.2

The number of deaths is used as the ranking criteria because it most accurately reflects the frequency of cause-specific mortality. The 50 rankable causes of death, as shown in Appendix 1, were selected from the short list of 113 selected causes of death developed by NCHS for use with ICD–10. Causes of death are ranked according to the number of deaths assigned to each of the 50 rankable causes shown in the Appendix 1.

The 71 rankable causes of infant death, as shown in Appendix 2, were selected from the short list of 130 selected causes of infant death developed by NCHS for use with ICD–10. Causes of infant death are ranked according to the number of deaths assigned to each of the 71 rankable causes presented in the Appendix 2.

The ranking of leading causes has limitations; it describes the rank order, by number of deaths, of each cause of death from a selected list of causes. The ranking alone cannot measure the relative risk of death.  Further, any comparisons of leading causes by region or by year do not take into account the differences in the population age structure.


Footnotes

  1. World Health Organization (WHO). International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, Tenth Revision, Volumes 1 and 2 (ICD–10). Geneva, 1992.
  2. Heron, M. "Deaths: leading causes for 2004." National Vital Statistics Reports. 2007; 56(5): 1–95.
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