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It’s Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

By Jeffrey Sterling, MD February 18, 2020


For colorectal cancer awareness month, we go behind the frequent calls for you to get screened. Let’s review the data and remind you why the disease itself is so devastating. This 2018 data is provided courtesy of the National Cancer Institute. They are based on statistics from SEER and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics.

Cancer of the Colon and Rectum

Illustration of lower digestive system.
Anatomy of the Lower Digestive System 

First things first: The digestive system is made up of the esophagus, stomach, and the small and large intestines. The first six feet of the large intestine are called the large bowel or colon. The last six inches are the rectum and the anal canal.

Cancer that begins in the colon is called colon cancer. When it begins in the rectum, it is called rectal cancer. Cancer that starts in either of these organs may also be called colorectal cancer.

How Common Is Colorectal Cancer?

Compared to other cancers, colorectal cancer is fairly common. It is the fourth ranked with respect to new cases. It is the second ranked in terms of deaths produced.

RankCommon Types of CancerEstimated New
Cases 2018
Deaths 2018
1.Breast Cancer (Female)266,12040,920
2.Lung and Bronchus Cancer234,030154,050
3.Prostate Cancer164,69029,430
4.Colorectal Cancer140,25050,630
5.Melanoma of the Skin91,2709,320
6.Bladder Cancer81,19017,240
7.Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma74,68019,910
8.Kidney and Renal Pelvis Cancer65,34014,970
9.Uterine Cancer63,23011,350

Colorectal cancer represents 8.1% of all new cancer cases in the U.S.

Colorectal cancer deaths


For 2018, it was estimated that there would be 140,250 new cases of colorectal cancer and an estimated 50,630 people dying of this disease.

Prevalence of Colorectal Cancer

In 2015, there were an estimated 1,332,085 people living with colorectal cancer in the United States.

Number of New Cases and Deaths per 100,000

The number of new cases of colorectal cancer was 39.4 per 100,000 men and women per year. The number of deaths was 14.5 per 100,000 men and women per year. These rates are age-adjusted and based on 2011-2015 cases and deaths.

Lifetime Risk of Developing Cancer

Approximately 4.2 percent of men and women will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer at some point during their lifetime, based on 2013-2015 data.


How Many People Survive 5 Years Or More after Being Diagnosed with Colorectal Cancer?

Relative survival statistics compare the survival of patients diagnosed with cancer with the survival of people in the general population who are the same age, race, and sex and who have not been diagnosed with cancer. Because survival statistics are based on large groups of people, they cannot be used to predict exactly what will happen to an individual patient. No two patients are entirely alike, and treatment and responses to treatment can vary greatly.


Percent Surviving 5 Years: 64.5%

Based on data from SEER 18 2008-2014. The gray figures represent those who have died from colorectal cancer. Green figures represent those who have survived 5 years or more.

Who Gets Colorectal Cancer?

Colorectal cancer is more common in men than women and among those of African American descent. The number of new cases of colorectal cancer was 39.4 per 100,000 men and women per year based on 2011-2015 cases.

Number of New Cases per 100,000 Persons by Race/Ethnicity & Sex: Colorectal Cancer

All Races45.2
Asian/Pacific Islander39.3
American Indian/Alaska Native45.1
All Races34.5
Asian/Pacific Islander28.0
American Indian/Alaska Native39.2

Percent of New Cases by Age Group: Colorectal Cancer

Age RangePercent of New Cases

Colorectal cancer is most frequently diagnosed among people aged 65-74.

Median Age At Diagnosis: 67

Survival: Who Dies From This Cancer?

For colorectal cancer, death rates increase with age. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. The number of deaths was 14.5 per 100,000 men and women per year based on 2011-2015 deaths.

Number of Deaths per 100,000 Persons by Race/Ethnicity & Sex: Colorectal Cancer

All Races17.3
Asian/Pacific Islander12.1
American Indian/Alaska Native20.2
All Races12.2
Asian/Pacific Islander8.6
American Indian/Alaska Native13.6


Percent of Deaths by Age Group: Colorectal Cancer

Age RangePercent of Deaths

The percent of colorectal cancer deaths is highest among people aged 75-84.

Median Age At Death is 73

U.S. 2011-2015, All Races, Both Sexes

There’s More!

Read this Straight, No Chaser post on colorectal cancer screening. Please have this conversation with your physician. It could save your life.

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