Colorectal Cancer: Statistics

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 01/2021

ON THIS PAGE: You will find information about the number of people who are diagnosed with colorectal cancer each year. You will also 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 diagnosed in both men and women each year in the United States, excluding skin cancer. 

This year, an estimated 149,500 adults in the United States will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer. These numbers include 104,270 new cases of colon cancer (52,590 men and 51,680 women) and 45,230 new cases of rectal cancer (26,930 men and 18,300 women).  

Colorectal cancer incidence rates dropped by about 1% each year from 2013 to 2017. However, this drop is mostly occurring in older adults, who are most affected by the disease. Incidence has been rising in younger people since the mid-1990s (see Risk Factors and Prevention). From 2012 through 2016, incidence rose by 2% each year in adults under age 50 and 1% in adults age 50 to 64. Colorectal cancer is estimated to be the fourth most commonly diagnosed cancer in U.S. men and women age 30 to 39.  

It is estimated that 52,980 deaths (28,520 men and 24,460 women) will be attributed to colorectal 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 third leading cause of cancer death in men and the third leading cause of cancer death in women. 

When colorectal cancer is found early, it can often be cured. The death rate from this type of cancer in 2018 was 55% less than what it was in 1970. This is due to improvements in treatment and increased screening, which finds colorectal changes before they turn cancerous and cancer at earlier stages. Overall, the death rate decreased by almost 2% each year from 2014 to 2018. However, deaths in adults under age 55 rose 1% each year from 2008 to 2017. Currently, there are over 1.5 million colorectal cancer survivors in the United States. 

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%. However, survival rates for colorectal cancer can vary based on several factors, particularly the stage

The 5-year survival rate of people with localized stage colorectal cancer is 90%. About 38% 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 72%. 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 sometimes eliminate the cancer, which greatly improves the 5-year survival rate for these patients. 

Survival rates are also available for colon cancer and rectal cancer separately. For colon cancer, the overall 5-year survival rate for people is 63%. If the cancer is diagnosed at a localized stage, the survival rate is 91%. If the cancer has spread to surrounding tissues or organs and/or the regional lymph nodes, the 5-year survival rate is 72%. If colon cancer has spread to distant parts of the body, the 5-year survival rate is 14%. 

For rectal cancer, the overall 5-year survival rate for people is 67%. If the cancer is diagnosed at a localized stage, the survival rate is 89%. If the cancer has spread to surrounding tissues or organs and/or the regional lymph nodes, the 5-year survival rate is 72%. If the cancer has spread to distant parts of the body, the 5-year survival rate is 16%. 

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. So the estimate may not show the results of better diagnosis or treatment available for less than 5 years. Talk with your doctor if you have any questions about this information. Learn more about understanding statistics

Statistics adapted from the American Cancer Society's (ACS) publications, Cancer Facts & Figures 2021 and Cancer Facts & Figures 2020: Special Section – Cancer in Adolescents and Young Adults, and the ACS website (sources accessed January 2021).

The next section in this guide is Medical IllustrationsIt offers drawings of body parts often affected by colorectal cancer. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.