Facts about Colorectal Cancer

It’s estimated that this year, 137,000 men & women will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer while another 50,000 will die from it.

Did you know:

  • Colorectal cancer is the #2 leading cause of cancer deaths among men and women in the U.S.
  • Colorectal cancer accounts for nearly 10% of cancer deaths in the U.S.
  • 1 in 3 adults aged 50-75 are NOT up-to-date with recommended colorectal cancer screening.
  • The median age at diagnosis is 69 years old.
  • 1 in 20 (around 5%) men and women will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in their lifetime.
  • African Americans are more likely to develop colorectal cancer. Screening rates are lower than average in this group so they are more likely to be diagnosed after the cancer has spread to other organs.
  • The estimated direct medical cost of colorectal cancer care in 2010 was $14 billion.
  • Those less-likely to get tested include Hispanics, people aged 50-64, men, American Indian or Alaska natives, those in rural areas and people with lower education and income.

Sources:  National Cancer Institute, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, American Cancer Society

But, there’s good news:

  • In March 2014, American Cancer Society released data showing colon cancer incidence rates have dropped 30% in the U.S. in the last 10 years among adults ages 50 and older due to the widespread uptake of colonoscopy, with the largest decrease occurring in those ages 65 and older. source
  • In January of 2013, the American Cancer Society reported a 30% decrease in the mortality rate for colorectal cancer.
  • There has been a decline in lives lost to cancer (1991 to 2009) and we have seen a 30% decrease in the mortality rate for colorectal cancer.
  • The likelihood of dying from colorectal cancer has been decreasing due to screening.
  • There are more than 1 million survivors of colorectal cancer in the United States.
  • Over 60% of deaths from colorectal cancer could be avoided with screening.
  • The CDC created the Colorectal Cancer Control Program (CRCCP) and provided the necessary funds to establish colorectal cancer programs in 25 states and 4 tribes across the United States.
  • The Screen for Life: National Colorectal Cancer Action Campaign launched in 1999 to encourages men and women aged 50 years or older to be screened regularly for colorectal cancer.

And what about the young adults?

  • SEER data shows that while new colorectal cancers in older adults (ages 50+) have fallen consistently since 1985, rates for people under 50 have risen, particularly for rectal cancer.  After 2001, there was an average annual increase of 2.1 percent in young onset colorectal cancer compared to a decrease of 2.5 percent yearly for those 50 and older. Rectal cancer cases increased even more rapidly in younger patients at an average annual change of 3.9 percent.  
  • Based on current research, the median age of younger patients was 44, with 3 out of 4 (75.2 percent) diagnosed in their forties.
  • An NIH study found most patients diagnosed under age 50 experience signs & symptoms, have left-colon or rectal cancers and are diagnosed with more advanced disease. If you are younger than 50 and have symptoms, you need to determine the cause of the symptoms.

Why is it happening?

Studies suggest that lack of access to health care and a lack of awareness in both young patients and their doctors of the importance of symptoms of colon and rectal cancer are causing the higher incidence of colon cancer and rectal cancer in young adults under age 50.

Looking for more colorectal cancer information?

Please contact our Resource Line for more information about colon and rectal cancer.


Reviewed by: Heather Hampel MS, CGC, Masters in Science, Certified Genetics Counselor