ON THIS PAGE: You will find information about the estimated number of people who will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer each year. You will also read general information on surviving the disease. Remember, survival rates depend on several factors, and no 2 people with cancer are the same. Use the menu to see other pages.
Every person is different, with different factors influencing their risk of being diagnosed with this cancer and the chance of recovery after a diagnosis. It is important to talk with your doctor about any questions you have around the general statistics provided below and what they may mean for you individually. The original sources for these statistics are provided at the bottom of this page.
How many people are diagnosed with colorectal cancer?
Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women each year in the United States, excluding skin cancer.
In 2023, an estimated 153,020 adults in the United States will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer. These numbers include 106,970 new cases of colon cancer (54,420 men and 52,550 women) and 46,050 new cases of rectal cancer (27,440 men and 18,610 women). Worldwide, colorectal cancer is the third most diagnosed cancer. An estimated 1,880,725 people were diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2020. These numbers include 1,148,515 colon cancer cases and 732,210 rectal cancer cases.
The number of colorectal cancer cases in the United States has been decreasing since the mid-1980s. During the 2000s, incidence rates dropped 3% to 4% each year. This was due to increased screening in adults aged 50 and older. From 2011 to 2019, incidence rates continued to decrease by 1% annually. However, incidence has been rising by 1% to 2% each year in younger people since the mid-1990s (see Risk Factors and Prevention). Colorectal cancer is estimated to be the fourth most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States among men and women aged 30 to 39.
It is estimated that 52,550 deaths (28,470 men and 24,080 women) from this disease will occur in the United States in 2023. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death 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. Worldwide, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death. In 2020, an estimated 915,880 people died from colorectal cancer. This includes 576,858 people with colon cancer and 339,022 people with rectal cancer.
When colorectal cancer is found early, it can often be cured. The death rate from this type of cancer in 2020 in the United States was 57% 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 around 2% each year from 2012 to 2020. However, deaths in adults under age 55 have continued to rise since the mid-2000s. Currently, there are about 1.4 million colorectal cancer survivors in the United States.
What is the survival rate for colorectal cancer?
There are different types of statistics that can help doctors evaluate a person’s chance of recovery from colorectal cancer. These are called survival statistics. A specific type of survival statistic is called the relative survival rate. It is often used to predict how having cancer may affect life expectancy. Relative survival rate looks at how likely people with colorectal cancer are to survive for a certain amount of time after their initial diagnosis or start of treatment compared to the expected survival of similar people without this cancer.
Example: Here is an example to help explain what a relative survival rate means. Please note this is only an example and not specific to this type of cancer. Let’s assume that the 5-year relative survival rate for a specific type of cancer is 90%. “Percent” means how many out of 100. Imagine there are 1,000 people without cancer, and based on their age and other characteristics, you expect 900 of the 1,000 to be alive in 5 years. Also imagine there are another 1,000 people similar in age and other characteristics as the first 1,000, but they all have the specific type of cancer that has a 5-year survival rate of 90%. This means it is expected that 810 of the people with the specific cancer (90% of 900) will be alive in 5 years.
It is important to remember that statistics on the survival rates for people with colorectal cancer are only an estimate. They cannot tell an individual person if cancer will or will not shorten their life. Instead, these statistics describe trends in groups of people previously diagnosed with the same disease, including specific stages of the disease.
The 5-year relative survival rate for colorectal cancer in the United States is 65%.
The survival rates for colorectal cancer vary based on several factors. These include the stage of cancer, a person’s age and general health, and how well the treatment plan works.
The 5-year relative survival rate for localized stage colorectal cancer is 91%. About 37% 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 relative survival rate is 73%. About 36% of patients are diagnosed at this regional stage. If the cancer has spread to distant parts of the body, the 5-year relative survival rate is 14%. About 22% of patients are diagnosed at this late stage. 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 relative survival rate for these patients.
Survival rates are also available for colon cancer and rectal cancer separately. For colon cancer, the overall 5-year relative 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 relative survival rate is 72%. If colon cancer has spread to distant parts of the body, the 5-year relative survival rate is 13%.
For rectal cancer, the overall 5-year relative survival rate for people is 68%. 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 relative survival rate is 74%. If the cancer has spread to distant parts of the body, the 5-year relative survival rate is 17%.
Experts measure relative survival rate statistics for colorectal cancer every 5 years. This means the estimate may not reflect the results of advancements in how colorectal cancer is diagnosed or treated from the last 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 2023 and Cancer Facts & Figures 2020: Special Section – Cancer in Adolescents and Young Adults; the International Agency for Research on Cancer website; and the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program. (All sources accessed February 2023.)
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.