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 147,950 adults in the United States will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer. These numbers include 104,610 new cases of colon cancer (52,340 men and 52,270 women) and 43,340 new cases of rectal cancer (25,960 men and 17,380 women).
Colorectal cancer mainly affects older adults, but there is a rising incidence in younger people (see Risk Factors and Prevention). While incidence rates dropped by 3.6% each year from 2007 to 2016 in adults age 55 and older, they rose by 2% each year in adults under age 55. This year, 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 53,200 deaths (28,630 men and 24,570 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 2017 was 54% 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. However, while death rates for adults over age 55 decreased by 2.6% each year from 2008 to 2017, they increased by 1% each year in adults under age 55. Currently, there are over 1 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 64%. 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 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 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 90%. If the cancer has spread to surrounding tissues or organs and/or the regional lymph nodes, the 5-year survival rate is 71%. 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 71%. 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. 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) publication, Cancer Facts & Figures 2020 and the ACS website (January 2020).
The next section in this guide is Medical Illustrations. It offers drawings of body parts often affected by colorectal cancer. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.