Colorectal Cancer: Statistics

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 01/2018

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 140,250 adults in the United States will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer. These numbers include 97,220 new cases of colon cancer (49,690 men and 47,530 women) and 43,030 new cases of rectal cancer (25,920 men and 17,110 women.) Colorectal cancer mainly affects older adults, but there is a rising incidence in people who are younger (see Risk Factors and Prevention).

It is estimated that 50,630 deaths (27,390 men and 23,240 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 has been declining since the mid-1980s, which is due to increased screening that finds colorectal changes before they turn cancerous and cancer at earlier stages, and improvements in treatment.

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 a variety of factors, particularly the stage.

The 5-year survival rate of people with localized stage colorectal cancer is 90%. About 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.

Survival rates are also available for colon cancer and rectal cancer separately. For colon cancer, the overall 5-year survival rate for people is 64%. 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 88%. If the cancer has spread to surrounding tissues or organs and/or the regional lymph nodes, the 5-year survival rate is 70%. If the cancer has spread to distant parts of the body, the 5-year survival rate is 15%.

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 any questions about this information. Learn more about understanding statistics.

Statistics adapted from the American Cancer Society's (ACS) publications, Cancer Facts and Figures 2018 and Colorectal Cancer Facts & Figures 2017-2019.

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.