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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, November 26, 2006

Heart disease, cancer state's major killers

 •  Births to unwed mothers jump

By Christie Wilson
Advertiser Neighbor Island Editor

Heart disease and cancer killed half of the 8,988 Hawai'i residents who died last year, according to the state Department of Health.

Heart ailments have long been the No. 1 killer in Hawai'i and the nation, but recently released vital statistics from 2005 show that the rate of deaths from heart disease in the state 147 per 100,000 residents was at its lowest level since 1999.

Heart disease killed 1,258 males and 996 females last year, and was the chief cause of death for residents age 35 to 44 and 85 and older. Cancer claimed 1,177 males and 959 females, and was the leading killer of residents ages 45 to 84.

Lung cancer by far was the most lethal form of the disease, killing 561 last year, followed by cancer of the colon, rectum and anus, with 210 deaths; breast cancer, which claimed 151 females; pancreatic cancer, which caused 148 deaths; and cancer of the prostate and other male reproductive organs, which killed 117 males.

Other cancers of note in the 2005 statistics include cervical cancer and other cancers involving female reproductive organs, which caused 88 deaths; leukemia, which killed 63; and melanoma, a form of skin cancer, which resulted in 23 deaths.

Although car crashes garner the most headlines when it comes to fatalities in Hawai'i, motor vehicles accidents were 11th on the 2005 list of the leading causes of death. Other types of accidents, such as falls, poisonings, drownings and fires, over the years consistently rank in the top five, and 2005 was no exception. "Other accidents" was the fourth-leading cause of death in the Islands last year, killing 303 people compared with the 140 who perished from traffic accidents.

Over the past 10 years, an average of 222.5 people have been killed by "other accidents" compared with an average of 126 motor vehicle victims.

Accidental falls account for an average of 78 deaths per year in the Islands, according to the Department of Health's Hawai'i Injury Prevention Plan for 2005-2010. The majority of accidental fatal falls involve the elderly, said Dan Galanis of the department's Injury Prevention and Control Program. The reasons include failing eyesight and balance, and the dizzying side effects of taking multiple medications, he said.

Car wrecks posed the greatest threat to young adults age 18 to 34. Forty-four residents in that age group died as a result of motor vehicle accidents in 2005. Other accidents and suicides were the other top killers of young adults.

Overall, motor vehicle crashes killed 101 males and 39 females last year, with O'ahu reporting 74 such deaths; the Big Island, 40; Maui, 18; and Kaua'i, 8.

For all age groups, suicide was 13th on the list of leading causes of deaths, resulting in the deaths of 72 males and 33 females. Assault, the 19th leading cause of death, killed 18 males and seven females.

There were a total of 9,330 deaths in the state last year, including 331 nonresidents and 11 others whose residency was unknown. The vital statistics report does not say how nonresidents died.

Among the residents who died, males outnumbered females 4,908 to 4,080.

March was the deadliest month, followed by May and January, the only three months of the year that recorded more than 800 deaths each.

Reach Christie Wilson at cwilson@honoluluadvertiser.com.