Reading a list of facts, especially about something like cancer, can be scary. As you consider the information here, remember that with early screening and testing, colon cancer is preventable, treatable and beatable for anyone!

About Colorectal Cancer

  • It is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death.
  • Colorectal cancer affects men and women equally, and people of all races and nationalities.
  • Anyone can get colorectal cancer.
  • The lifetime risk of being diagnosed with colorectal cancer is about one in 20.
  • The 5-year relative survival rate for Stage 1 and Stage II colon cancer was 90%; the 5-year survival rate for patients diagnosed at Stage III was 70% and Stage IV was 12%.
  • Colorectal cancer usually develops slowly over a period of 10 to 15 years.
  • Colorectal cancer rates in the US vary widely by geographic area. Contributing factors include regional variations in risk factors and access to screening and treatment.
  • Compared to whites, all other racial/ethnic groups are less likely to have colorectal cancer found in the early stages.
  • Colorectal cancer incidence rates have been declining in the US since the mid-1980s, due to increased awareness and screening.
  • Often, those who are diagnosed with colon cancer have experienced no signs or symptoms associated with the disease.
  • Currently, only about two-thirds of people aged 50 or older, for whom screening is recommended, report having received colorectal cancer testing consistent with current guidelines.
  • While most people diagnosed with colon cancer have no family history of the disease, those with a family history of the disease should begin screening at an earlier age.
  • People with a parent, sibling, or offspring with colorectal cancer have 2 or 3 times the risk of developing colon cancer compared to those with no family history of the disease. 
  • When a relative is diagnosed at a young age or if there is more than one affected relative, the risk of developing colorectal cancer increases to three to six times that of the general population. 

Colon Cancer in Young People

  • The risk of colorectal cancer increases with age; 91% of cases are diagnosed in individuals 50 years of age and older.
  • While rates of colon cancer have been declining among adults 50 years and older, incidence of colorectal cancer is increasing among adults under age 50.
  • Between 1998 and 2007 colorectal cancer cases have dropped steadily in adults over 50, but they increased by more than 2% each year in younger adults – as much as 4% for rectal cancers, and 3% for colon cancer.
  • Younger adults were more likely than older adults to be diagnosed with late-stage cancers.
  • People in their 30s were about 30% more likely than other age groups to be diagnosed with cancers in stage III or IV.
  • About 72% of cases of colorectal cancer in young people arise in the colon and about 28% in the rectum.

What About Screening?

  • According to the American Cancer Society, men and women should begin screening for colon cancer at age 50.
  • There are many screening tests available, including some non-invasive, inexpensive tests that can be done in the privacy of your own home.
  • The National Colorectal Round Table estimates that if the 80% of the eligible population was screened at the age of 50, the number of colorectal cancer-related deaths could be cut by 230,000.
  • Screening has the potential to prevent colorectal cancer because polyps (precursors to cancer) can be removed during a colonoscopy screening. Furthermore, being screened at the recommended frequency increases the likelihood that when colorectal cancer is present, it will be detected at an earlier stage.
  • When colorectal cancer it detected in its early stages it is more likely to be cured, treatment is less extensive, and the recovery is much faster.
  • The risk of developing or dying from colorectal cancer can be reduced by maintaining a healthy body weight, regular physical activity, limiting intake of red and processed meats, and by not smoking.

What else?

  • In the past ten years, colon cancer screening rates have increased, but rates still remain low, especially among those who are uninsured.
  • By increasing colorectal cancer screening rates in the 50 to 64 year-old population, we will reduce suffering, save lives, and reduce the cancer-treatment costs to Medicare.
  • Some estimates for one-year treatment cost for a patient with metastatic (late stage) colorectal cancer are as high as $310,000.
  • Total treatment cost for colorectal cancers in the United States is about $8.4 billion per year.
  • With early screening and testing, colon cancer is Preventable, Treatable and Beatable.


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Information on these pages is provided for informational purposes only. Consult your own physician before making any medical decisions.