Colorectal Cancer: Statistics

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 06/2016

ON THIS PAGE: You will find information about the number of people who are diagnosed with colorectal cancer each year. You will read general information on surviving the disease. Remember, survival rates depend on several factors. Use the menu to see other pages.

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in both men and women in the United States. This year, an estimated 135,430 adults in the United States will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer. These numbers include 95,520 new cases of colon cancer and 39,910 new cases of rectal cancer.

It is estimated that 50,260 deaths (27,150 men and 23,110 women) will be attributed to colon or rectal cancer this year. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States for men and women combined. It is the second-leading cause of cancer death in men, and the third-leading cause of cancer death in women.

Colorectal cancer is found most commonly among people age 50 and higher. For colon cancer, the average age at the time of diagnosis for men is 68 and for women is 72. For rectal cancer, it is age 63 for both men and women. Older patients who are diagnosed with colorectal cancer face unique challenges, specifically with regard to cancer treatment. For more information, please visit Cancer.Net’s section about aging and cancer.

It is important to note while still diagnosed most commonly in that age group, the incidence rate for colorectal cancer in adults 50 and over declined annually by 3% based on the latest statistics, while it increased by 2% per year in adults under age 50. The increase is due in large part to rising numbers of rectal cancer. About 11% of all colorectal diagnoses are in people under age 50.

When colorectal cancer is found early, it can often be cured. The death rate from this type of cancer has been declining since the mid-1980s, possibly because it is usually diagnosed earlier now and treatments have improved.

Overall, the 5-year survival rate tells you what percent of people live at least 5 years after the cancer is found. Percent means how many out of 100. The 5-year survival rate for people with colorectal cancer is 65%. The 10-year survival rate is 58%. However, survival rates for colorectal cancer can vary based on a variety of factors, particularly the stage.

The 5-year survival rate of people with localized stage colorectal cancer is 90%. Approximately 39% of patients are diagnosed at this early stage. If the cancer has spread to surrounding tissues or organs and/or the regional lymph nodes, the 5-year survival rate is 71%. If the cancer has spread to distant parts of the body, the 5-year survival rate is 14%. However, for patients who have just 1 or a few tumors that have spread from the colon or rectum to the lung or liver, surgical removal of these tumors can eliminate the cancer, which greatly improves the 5-year survival rate for these patients.

It is important to remember that statistics on the survival rates for people with colorectal cancer are an estimate. The estimate comes from annual data based on the number of people with this cancer in the United States. Also, experts measure the survival statistics every 5 years. This means that the estimate may not show the results of better diagnosis or treatment available for less than 5 years. People should talk with their doctor if they have questions about this information. Learn more about understanding statistics.

Statistics adapted from the American Cancer Society's publication, Colorectal Cancer Facts & Figures 2017-2019.

The next section in this guide is Medical Illustrations. It offers drawings of body parts often affected by this disease. Or, use the menu to choose another section to continue reading this guide.