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Statistics and risk factors

Colorectal cancer (cancer that starts in the colon or rectum) is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death in men and women combined in the United States. The American Cancer Society estimates that this year 95,520 people will be diagnosed with colon cancer, 39,910 will be diagnosed with rectal cancer, and 50,260 will die from this disease.

On average, the lifetime risk of developing colon cancer is about one in 23 for men and women combined (4.5%), however, this varies widely according to individual risk factors.

About 71% of cases arise in the colon and about 29% in the rectum.


Colorectal cancer survival rates

Since the mid-1980s, the colorectal cancer survival rate has been increasing, due in part to increased awareness and screening. By finding polyps and cancer in the earlier stages, it is easiest to treat. Improved treatment options have also contributed to a rise in survival rates.

Survival Rates

  • The five-year survival rate for colorectal cancer found at the local stage is 90%.
  • The five-year survival rate for colorectal cancer found at the regional stage is 71%.
  • The five-year survival rate for colorectal cancer found at the distant stage is 14%.

There are currently more than one million colorectal cancer survivors alive in the US.


Stage of diagnosis

According to the American Cancer Society:

  • 39% of colon and rectal cancer patients are diagnosed with localized-stage disease.
  • 35% of colon and rectal cancer patients are diagnosed with regional- stage disease.
  • 21% of colon and rectal cancer patients are diagnosed with distant- stage disease.

Colorectal cancer and age

  • The median age at diagnosis for colon cancer is 68 in men and 72 in women; for rectal cancer it is 63 years of age in both men and women.
  • As a result of rising colon and rectal cancer incidence rates in younger age groups coincident with declining rates in older age groups, the proportion of cases diagnosed in individuals younger than age 50 increased from 6% in 1990 to 11% in 2013.
  • Most of these cases (72%) occur in people who are in their 40s.

Colorectal cancer and ethnicity and race

  • Colon cancer and rectal cancer incidence and mortality rates are highest in African Americans
  • During 2009-2013, colon cancer and rectal cancer incidence rates in blacks were about 20% higher than whites
  • Colon cancer and rectal cancer death rates in blacks are 40% higher than that of whites

Your family history, ethnicity and race can put you at a higher risk for colorectal cancer. Read more about who should be screened and when.


Colorectal cancer and family history

People with a first-degree relative (parent, sibling, or children) who has colorectal cancer are between two and three times the risk of developing the cancer than those without a family history.

These statistics are compiled from the American Cancer Society’s 2017 Cancer Facts & Figures and Colorectal Cancer Facts & Figures 2017-2019.

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