The murder rate among Brazil's youths has soared to epidemic levels, almost doubling between 1998 and 2008, the Justice Ministry said Thursday.

In its "Map of Violence" report, the ministry said the number of Brazilians aged 15 to 24 murdered rose from 30 per 100,000 inhabitants in 1998 to 52.9 a decade later. It did not say why the murder rate increased.

The report said that among the population as a whole, the murder rate in 2008 was 20.5 per 100,000.

Sociologist Julio Jacobo Weiselfisz, who prepared the report, said that "if the overall rate is very high, the murder rate among youths has reached epidemic proportions."

The report said that, according to the latest figures available, Brazil's murder rate ranks sixth among 100 countries, both in terms of the population as a whole and among youths.

The first-ranked country in terms of overall murder rate is El Salvador (57.3 per 100,000 in 2006), followed by Colombia (42.8 in 2006) and Venezuela (36.4 in 2007). The U.S. murder rate was 5 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2009, according to U.S. government figures.

The report said El Salvador had the highest murder rate among youths (105.6 in 2006), followed by the U.S. Virgin Islands (86.2 in 2005) and Venezuela (80.4 in 2007).