Systemic lupus erythematous (SLE) is a chronic inflammatory disease that predominantly affects women and can involve virtually any organ. The authors of this study analyzed secular trends and population characteristics associated with SLE mortality.
Objective: Mortality statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are used for planning healthcare policy and allocating resources. The CDC uses these data to compile its annual ranking of leading causes of death based on a selected list of 113 causes. SLE is not included on this list. The ranking is a useful tool for assessing the relative burden of cause-specific mortality, so these researchers opted to see where SLE deaths rank among the CDC’s leading causes of death. The goal: To see whether SLE is a significant cause of death among women.
Methods: Death counts for the female population of the U.S. were obtained from the CDC’s Wide-Ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research database and then grouped by age and race/ethnicity. Data on the leading causes of death were obtained from the Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System database.
Results: During 2000–2015, 28,411 deaths of women occurred in which SLE was recorded as an underlying or contributing cause of death. SLE ranked among the top 20 leading causes of death among girls and women aged 5 to 64 years old. SLE ranked 10th among those ages 15–24 years, 14th among those ages 25–34 years and 35–44 years, and 15th among those ages 10–14 years. For African-American and Hispanic females, SLE ranked fifth among those ages 15–24 years, 6th among those ages 25–34 years and 8th or 9th among those ages 35–44 years, after the three common external injury causes of death were excluded from the analysis.
Conclusion: SLE is among the leading causes of death in young women, underscoring its public health impact, a topic that should be addressed by targeted public health and research programs. Increasing awareness among pediatricians and primary care physicians about the importance of early diagnosis and better management of SLE may help reduce the high burden of SLE mortality.
The recognition of SLE as a leading cause of death may influence physicians’ coding on death certificates, CDC reporting of death burden, government policy and government research funding, which may eventually help reduce the disease burden of SLE.
Excerpted and adapted from:
Yen EY, Singh RR. Lupus—An unrecognized leading cause of death in young women: A population-based study using nationwide death certificates, 2000–2015. Arthritis Rheumatol. 2018 Aug;70(8):1251–1255.