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 151,030 adults in the United States will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer. These numbers include 106,180 new cases of colon cancer (54,040 men and 52,140 women) and 44,850 new cases of rectal cancer (26,650 men and 18,200 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. From 2014 to 2018, incidence rates dropped by about 2% each year in adults aged 50 and older. This was due to increased screening. However, incidence has been rising in younger people since the mid-1990s (see Risk Factors and Prevention). From 2014 through 2018, incidence rose by 1.5% each year in adults younger than 50. 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 52,580 deaths (28,400 men and 24,180 women) from this disease will occur in the United States this year. 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 2019 in the United States was 56% 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 2015 to 2019. However, deaths in adults under age 55 rose 1% per year from 2008 to 2017. Currently, there are over 1.5 million colorectal cancer survivors in the United States.
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 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 survival rate is 72%. About 36% of patients are diagnosed at this regional stage. If the cancer has spread to distant parts of the body, the 5-year survival rate is 15%. 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 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 90%. If the cancer has spread to surrounding tissues or organs and/or the regional lymph nodes, the 5-year survival rate is 73%. If the cancer has spread to distant parts of the body, the 5-year survival rate is 17%.
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 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 2022 and Cancer Facts & Figures 2020: Special Section – Cancer in Adolescents and Young Adults; the ACS website; the International Agency for Research on Cancer website; and the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program. (All sources accessed January 2022.)
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.