The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) categorizes causes of death into groupings, some of which are designated as “rankable.”  These rankable causes are ordered from most to least common cause of death to create the “leading causes of death” listing. Leading cause of death rankings are based on numbers of deaths, not death rates.

The rankable causes in the Death MICA are designated by "#".

The ranking of leading causes of death depends largely on how causes are grouped. When comparing leading causes of death from different data sources/locations it is important to make sure the causes are grouped in the same way. For example, cancer is the second leading cause of death using NCHS rankable groups. But if cancers were to be counted separately—lung cancer, breast cancer, etc.—their ranks would be lower. On the other hand, NCHS counts various communicable diseases separately; if they were grouped together, their rank would be higher.

For information from NCHS about the development and use of leading cause lists in presenting mortality data, see Heron M., Deaths: Leading causes for 2013. National vital statistics reports; vol 65 no 2. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2016. The publication includes a complete list of the 50 rankable causes (Table A) and a description of how they were chosen (beginning on page 1).

For more information on the leading causes of death in Missouri see the MoPHIMS Leading Cause of Death Profile which provides data on the top 12 Missouri causes for recent years or the Missouri Vital Statistics (MVS) Annual Reports which provide annual lists of leading causes of death by age group, race, and ethnicity.