Information about Causes of Death

This page gives information about causes of death on the Mortality Trends website.

A drop-down list on the Choose a graph page shows 56 selectable causes of death. The first selectable item, 'All causes', means death from any cause. The next seven items, from 'All vascular disease' to 'All other causes', are broad categories that together add up exactly (or, at least, should) to 'All causes'. The next, and largest, group of items is for specific causes of death, each of which belongs to one of the seven broad categories. The categories, however, have only some of their specific component causes listed: the selection is deliberately limited to specific causes of death that have recently or historically been at least moderately common, and for which many years of data are available. The final group is of four items which are—or prominently feature—poorly defined causes of death, and can be used to assess the quality of the data for some of the other, more well defined, causes of death.

Cause of death on this website means the underlying cause of death as recorded on civil death certificates. For the 40 selectable countries and territories on the Choose a graph page, most death certificates are completed by an attending medical doctor, although the actual proportion does slightly vary by jurisdiction: see Mathers et al. in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 2005; 83: 171-7.

Definitions of each of the 56 selectable causes of death are given below. 'ICD' refers to the International Classification of Diseases, in its 7th, 8th, 9th or 10th version.

'A definition is the enclosing a wilderness of idea within a wall of words.'

  —Samuel Butler, Notebooks (1912)


HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted disease. These categories are combined because most (but obviously not all) HIV/AIDS is sexually transmitted. In the 1980s, HIV/AIDS deaths tended to be coded under diagnoses such as pneumonia and skin cancer.

WHO codes: ICD-7 020-035; ICD-8 090-098; ICD-9 090-099, 279.5, 279.6; ICD-10 A50-A64, B20-B24.

 All cancer

All neoplasms, whether malignant, benign, or of an unspecified nature. (Benign neoplasms are not strictly 'cancers', but they form only a tiny proportion of the deaths in this category.) The category includes neoplasms of haematopoietic and lymphoid tissues (eg, leukaemias, lymphomas).

WHO codes: ICD-7 140-239; ICD-8 140-239; ICD-9 140-239; ICD-10 C00-D48.

 All causes

The aggregate of all deaths, irrespective of cause. For the 40 selectable countries and territories on the Choose a graph page, the recording of the fact of death is more-or-less complete: see Mathers et al., Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 2005; 83: 171-7.

 All conditions arising near birth

If space allowed, this diverse category might have been termed 'congenital, perinatal and infant causes of death'. Includes congenital malformations, Down's syndrome, spina bifida, birth injury, birth asphyxia, intrauterine hypoxia, respiratory distress of the newborn, congenital pneumonia, neonatal aspiration syndromes, bacterial sepsis of the newborn, extreme immaturity and low birthweight.

WHO codes: ICD-7 750-776; ICD-8 740-779; ICD-9 740-779; ICD-10 P00-Q999.

 All infectious disease

Includes tuberculosis (whether pulmonary or extra-pulmonary), influenza, acute respiratory infections (but not pneumonia), acute intestinal infections, malaria, measles, whooping cough, sexually transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS, septicaemia, meningitis, viral hepatitis and cellulitis. Does not include pneumonia, because this is frequently a complication of other underlying disease, rather than a primary infective cause of death in its own right.

WHO codes: ICD-7 001-138, 470-483, 500, 690-698; ICD-8 001-136, 460-474, 680-686; ICD-9 001-139, 279.5, 279.6, 466, 487, 680-686; ICD-10 A00-A999, B00-B999, J00-J029, J10-J118, J20-J229, L00-L089.

 All injury

Encompasses all deaths considered to have resulted from an 'external' cause such as water (drowning), fire (burns), drugs (unintentional poisoning), a motor vehicle (motor vehicle crash), a person's own hand (suicide), or the hand of others (murder, state execution, war).

WHO codes: ICD-7 E800-E899; ICD-8 E800-E899; ICD-9 E800-E899; ICD-10 V01-Y899.

 All other causes

Defined as all causes of death other than 'All vascular disease', 'All cancer', 'All respiratory disease', 'All infectious disease', 'All conditions arising near birth', and 'All injury'. Includes pneumonia, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, peptic ulcer, intestinal obstruction, hernia, liver cirrhosis, gallbladder disease, malnutrition, anaemia, obstetric (ie, maternal) causes, and ill-defined causes.

WHO codes: ICD-10 AAA less all of: D00-D489, J03-J069, I00-I99, C00-C97, J40-J989, V01-Y899, A00-A99, B00-B99, J00-J029, J10-J118, J20-J22, L00-L089 or P00-Q999; ICD-7, ICD-8 and ICD-9 codes defined similarly.

 All respiratory disease

Includes COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), asthma, pleurisy, lung abscess, bronchiectasis and pulmonary fibrosis. Does not include lung cancer, pneumonia, influenza or pulmonary tuberculosis.

WHO codes: ICD-7 501-527; ICD-8 490-519; ICD-9 490-519; ICD-10 J03-J069, J40-J989 .

 All vascular disease

Sometimes called 'cardiovascular disease' or 'circulatory disease'. Is dominated by coronary heart disease and stroke, but also includes aortic aneurysm, valvular heart disease, cardiomyopathy, hypertensive heart disease, pericarditis, peripheral vascular disease and pulmonary embolism.

WHO codes: ICD-7 330-334, 400-468; ICD-8 390-458; ICD-9 390-459; ICD-10 I00-I999.


Includes nutritional anaemias, haemolytic anaemias, aplastic anaemias and unspecified anaemias.

WHO codes: ICD-7 290-293; ICD-8 280-285; ICD-9 280-285; ICD-10 D50-D649.


See 'COPD'.

 Bladder cancer

WHO codes: ICD-7 181.0; ICD-8 188; ICD-9 188; ICD-10 C67.

 Bowel cancer

Includes cancers of the small intestine, large intestine, rectum and anus.

WHO codes: ICD-7 152-154; ICD-8 152-154; ICD-9 152-154; ICD-10 C17-C21.8.

 Brain cancer

WHO codes: ICD-7 193; ICD-8 191; ICD-9 191; ICD-10 C71.

 Breast cancer

Includes male breast cancer.

WHO codes: ICD-7 170; ICD-8 174; ICD-9 174; ICD-10 C50.


See 'All cancer' and site-specific cancers (eg, 'Lung cancer'). Note that all site-specific cancers are for cancers considered to have arisen at the specified site (ie, primary cancers), and not for cancers known to have metastasized to it (ie, secondary cancers).

 Cardiovascular disease

See 'All vascular disease'.

 Cervical cancer

Cancer of the uterine cervix.

WHO codes: ICD-7 171; ICD-8 180; ICD-9 180; ICD-10 C53.

 Chronic bronchitis

See 'COPD'.

 Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

See 'COPD'.

 Circulatory disease

See 'All vascular disease'.

 Cirrhosis of liver

Includes alcoholic cirrhosis, alcoholic fatty liver, alcoholic hepatic failure, alcoholic hepatitis, chronic hepatitis not otherwise specified, and biliary cirrhosis. Several of these diagnoses are explicitly alcohol-related, but note that the final two are not.

WHO codes: ICD-7 581; ICD-8 571; ICD-9 571; ICD-10 K70, K73-K74.6.

 Conditions arising near birth

See 'All conditions arising near birth'.


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, sometimes also called chronic obstructive lung disease, chronic obstructive respiratory disease, chronic obstructive airway disease, or chronic airflow limitation. The codes below include emphysema and chronic bronchitis, but not bronchiectasis. WHO data for the ICD-8 era inextricably mix COPD with asthma, so, for historical continuity, the ICD-9 and ICD-10 codes below include asthma as well; however, the ICD-7 codes do not, because of inherent limitations with the data for that period.

WHO codes: ICD-7 501, 502; ICD-8 490-493; ICD-9 490-493, 495, 496; ICD-10 J40-J46.

 Coronary heart disease

Also called ischaemic heart disease. Includes myocardial infarction ('heart attack') and angina. Generally the most common cause of death in Europe, North and South America, Oceania and South Asia.

WHO codes: ICD-7 420-422; ICD-8 410-414; ICD-9 410-414; ICD-10 I20-I249, I25 and I251-I259.


Diabetes mellitus, irrespective of the type (eg, type 1, type 2), though excluding gestational diabetes (which is classified below under 'Obstetric cause'). Note that in Mexico there is a strong tendency for diabetes to be recorded as the underlying cause of death if there is any evidence at all that it contributed to a death, whereas in some northern European countries there is a notable tendency for it not to be. (Diabetes can result in death from coronary heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, liver disease, infectious diseases, and a few types of cancer.) Mortality rates for deaths attributed to diabetes thus depend hugely on the coding practices in the particular country. Complicating matters further, the coding practices in some countries have not remained constant.

WHO codes: ICD-7 260; ICD-8 250; ICD-9 250; ICD-10 E10-E14.

 Diabetes/all vascular dis.

The aggregate of all deaths attributed either to 'Diabetes' or 'All vascular disease' (see definitions above). This combined endpoint may be particularly useful for countries where a large proportion of vascular deaths are recorded as diabetes deaths, most notably Mexico.


Unintentional drowning.

WHO codes: ICD-7 E929; ICD-8 E910; ICD-9 E910; ICD-10 W65-W74.


See 'COPD'.

  Endometrial cancer

Cancer of the uterus other than cancer of the uterine cervix. Mostly endometrial cancer.

WHO codes: ICD-7 172-174; ICD-8 181, 182; ICD-9 179, 182; ICD-10 C54, C55.


WHO codes: ICD-7 353; ICD-8 345; ICD-9 345; ICD-10 G40, G41.

 Esophageal cancer

See 'Oesophageal cancer'.


Unintentional injuries due to falls.

WHO codes: ICD-7 E900-E904; ICD-8 E880-E887; ICD-9 E880-E888; ICD-10 W00-W19.


Unintentional injuries due to fire.

WHO codes: ICD-7 E916; ICD-8 E890-E899; ICD-9 E890-E899; ICD-10 X00-X09.

 Gallbladder cancer

Includes cancer of the extrahepatic bile ducts.

WHO codes: ICD-7 155.1; ICD-8 156; ICD-9 156; ICD-10 C23-C24.

 Gallbladder disease (other)

Gallbladder disease other than gallbladder cancer. Includes gallstones (cholelithiasis) and inflammation of the gallbladder (cholecystitis).

WHO codes: ICD-7 584, 585; ICD-8 574, 575; ICD-9 574-575.1; ICD-10 K80-K82.

 Gastroduodenal ulcer

See 'Peptic ulcer'.

 Ill-defined cause

Cause of death not known (eg, 'sudden death') or known very imprecisely (eg, because the recorded cause of death was only a symptom or a laboratory test result).

WHO codes: ICD-7 780-795; ICD-8 780-796; ICD-9 780-799; ICD-10 R00-R99.

 Infectious disease

See 'All infectious disease'.


See 'All injury'.

 Injury, intent undetermined

Injury where the underlying intent was not determined.

WHO codes: ICD-7, unavailable; ICD-8 E980-E989; ICD-9 E980-E989; ICD-10 Y10-Y349, Y872.

 Intestinal obstruction

Includes hernia of the abdominal cavity.

WHO codes: ICD-7 560, 561, 570; ICD-8 550-553, 560 ; ICD-9 550-553, 560; ICD-10 K40-K46, K56.

 Kidney cancer

Includes cancer of the renal pelvis.

WHO codes: ICD-7 180; ICD-8 1890, 1891; ICD-9 1890-1891; ICD-10 C64 C65.


Includes acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, acute myeloid leukaemia, chronic leukaemia, monocytic leukaemia and unspecified leukaemia.

WHO codes: ICD-7 204; ICD-8 204-207; ICD-9 204-208; ICD-10 C91-C95.

 Liver cancer

Cancer arising in the liver. Excludes—in principle—not only cancers known to have metastasized to the liver (ie, secondary cancers), but also cancers that were not specified as arising in the liver (ie, that were not specified as primary cancers). These exclusions have not, however, been consistently applied in all countries. The unexpectedly high liver cancer mortality rates in some periods for certain countries—eg, Argentina, Chile, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Poland, Spain and Sweden—were probably a result of metastatic liver disease being routinely mis-recorded as liver cancer. The ICD-7, -8 and -10 codes below include cancer of the intrahepatic bile ducts; the ICD-9 code does not.

WHO codes: ICD-7 155.0; ICD-8 155; ICD-9 155.0; ICD-10 C22.0-C22.7.

 Lung cancer

Includes cancer of the bronchi and trachea. Does not include mesothelioma.

WHO codes: ICD-7 162, 163; ICD-8 162; ICD-9 162; ICD-10 C33, C34.

 Lymphoma or myeloma

Includes all haematopoietic and lymphoid neoplasms other than leukaemia, notably Hodgkin's lymphoma, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and multiple myeloma.

WHO codes: ICD-7 200-203, 205; ICD-8 200-203, 208, 209; ICD-9 200-203; ICD-10 C81-C90, C96.

 Motor vehicle crash

Injury resulting from a motor vehicle crash. 'Motor vehicle' here includes cars, vans, trucks, buses and motorcycles, and the injured individuals include drivers, riders and passengers in, or of, such vehicles, as well as pedal cyclists or pedestrians injured (either directly or indirectly) by a motor vehicle. The ICD-7, -8 and -10 codes include 'nontraffic' injuries (which would always have been small in number), whereas the ICD-9 codes do not.

WHO codes: ICD-7 E810-E835; ICD-8 E810-E823; ICD-9 E810-E819; ICD-10 V020-V049, V120-V149, V200-V799, V892.

 Mouth cancer

See 'Oral or pharyngeal cancer'.

 Multiple sclerosis

WHO codes: ICD-7 345; ICD-8 340; ICD-9 340; ICD-10 G35.

 Neoplastic disease

See 'Cancer'.

 Obstetric cause

Includes pregnancy-related toxaemia, haemorrhage and sepsis, gestational diabetes, and legal abortion.

WHO codes: ICD-7 601, 603, 605-609, 611-617, 622-637, 640-652, 660, 670-689; ICD-8 630-645, 650-662, 670-678; ICD-9 630-648, 650-676; ICD-10 O00-O99.

 Oesophageal cancer

WHO codes: ICD-7 150; ICD-8 150; ICD-9 150; ICD-10 C15.

 Oral or pharyngeal cancer

Includes cancer of lip, tongue, gum, palate, salivary glands, tonsil, oropharynx, nasopharynx and hypopharynx.

WHO codes: ICD-7 140-148; ICD-8 140-149; ICD-9 140-149; ICD-10C00-C14.

 Other causes

See 'All other causes'.

 Ovarian cancer

The ICD-7, -8 and -9 (but not ICD-10) codes below include cancer of the Fallopian tubes, broad ligament, and other uterine adnexa.

WHO codes: ICD-7 175; ICD-8 183; ICD-9 183; ICD-10 C56.

 Pancreatic cancer

WHO codes: ICD-7 157; ICD-8 157; ICD-9 157; ICD-10 C25.

 Peptic ulcer

Includes gastric ulcer and duodenal ulcer.

WHO codes: ICD-7 540, 541; ICD-8 531-533; ICD-9 531-533; ICD-10 K25-K27.

 Pharyngeal cancer

See 'Oral or pharyngeal cancer'.


Includes bacterial pneumonia, viral pneumonia, and pneumonia due to unspecified type of organism.

WHO codes: ICD-7 490-493; ICD-8 480-486; ICD-9 480-486; ICD-10 J12-J18.


See 'Unintentional poisoning'.

 Prostate cancer

WHO codes: ICD-7 177; ICD-8 185; ICD-9 185; ICD-10 C61.

 Respiratory disease

See 'All respiratory disease'.

 Skin cancer

Mostly malignant melanoma, but also includes squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma.

WHO codes: ICD-7 190, 191; ICD-8 172, 173; ICD-9 172, 173; ICD-10 C43, C44.

 Stomach cancer

WHO codes: ICD-7 151; ICD-8 151; ICD-9 151; ICD-10 C16.

 Stomach ulcer

See 'Peptic ulcer'.


Sometimes called cerebrovascular disease or cerebrovascular accident. Generally the most common cause of death in East Asia.

WHO codes: ICD-7 330-334; ICD-8 430-438; ICD-9 430-438; ICD-10 I60-I69.

'The rather blurry and pompous piece of nomenclature must have issued from the well-meant tendency to soften the blow to patients on their relatives, also from a desire to replace "stroke", a pithy term that may sound unscientific and lacking gentility.'

  —Schiller (1970), on the term 'cerebrovascular accident'; quoted by Jan van Gijn, in Stroke: A Practical Guide to Management (1997) [Warlow ed.]


Deaths resulting from any form of self-inflicted injury.

WHO codes: ICD-7 E963, E970-E979; ICD-8 E950-E959; ICD-9 E950-E959; ICD-10 X60-X84.

 Testicular cancer

WHO codes: ICD-7 178; ICD-8186; ICD-9 186; ICD-10 C62.

 Thyroid cancer

WHO codes: ICD-7 194; ICD-8 193; ICD-9 193; ICD-10 C73.


Includes pulmonary tuberculosis, extra-pulmonary tuberculosis, and late effects of tuberculosis.

WHO codes: ICD-7 001-019; ICD-8 010-019; ICD-9 010-018, 137; ICD-10 A15-A19, B90.

 Unintentional poisoning

Also called accidental poisoning. Includes unintentional poisoning by medication, alcohol, illicit drugs.

WHO codes: ICD-7 E870-E895; ICD-8 E850-E877; ICD-9 E850-E869; ICD-10 X400-X499.

 Unspecified cancer

This category comprises neoplasms of an unspecified nature (generally around 90% of the deaths) and neoplasms recorded as benign (about 10%).

WHO codes: ICD-7 210-239; ICD-8 210-239; ICD-9 210-239; ICD-10 D00-D489.

 Vascular disease

See 'All vascular disease'.

 Vascular, non-CHD/stroke

All vascular disease besides coronary heart disease and stroke. Includes diseases such as aortic aneurysm, valvular heart disease, cardiomyopathy, hypertensive heart disease, pericarditis, peripheral vascular disease and pulmonary embolism. Also includes ill-defined vascular causes of death such as 'heart disease' and 'atherosclerosis'.

WHO codes: ICD-7 400-402, 410-416, 430-434, 440-447, 450-456, 460-468; ICD-8 390-398, 400-404, 420-429, 440-448, 450-458; ICD-9 390-398, 401-405, 415-429, 440-459; ICD-10 I00-I199, I250, I26-I59, I70-I999.


Defined here as death resulting from an injury intentionally inflicted by another person or persons. Includes homicide, murder, manslaughter, assault, war, and state execution. (The number of deaths from this cause in any given year may differ somewhat from that determined—generally after more thorough deliberation—by judicial authorities.)

WHO codes: ICD-7 E964, E965, E980-E985, E990-E999; ICD-8 E960-E978, E990-E999; ICD-9 E960-E969, E990-E999; ICD-10 X85-Y099, Y35-Y369.

'Much of what we call diseases are a kaleidoscope of conditions, with distinct origins,
prognoses, risk factors, genetic susceptibilities, and responses to therapy.'

—Anonymous, Nature (2001), Visionary experimental designs