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Causes of death represent a well-established data source in demography, collected systematically for more than a century. These nationwide statistics have a great potential for explaining and understanding the past and recent underlying trends in mortality. In history, major mortality shifts and advances were driven by specific causes of death: infectious diseases at first, and later circulatory diseases.

Medical knowledge, certification practices and classification systems, however have evolved dramatically since cause-specific data were first collected, resulting in important comparability issues over time and across countries. The presentation will look at the most pertinent issues encountered in cause-of-death analysis from an international perspective and will present a new database of long-term reconstructed data on causes of death.