Colon Cancer Statistics You Need to Know

It is life-altering to find out that you, a family member, or a friend has been diagnosed with colon cancer. Receiving this news can leave you feeling shaken and unsure. Understanding what your colon cancer prognosis is can help you begin to move forward and focus on healing.

To help you with this process, we created this guide to walk you through some helpful colon cancer statistics based on different groupings like gender, age, cancer stage, cancer type, race, and ethnicity.  We also discuss colon cancer survival rates without treatment and with treatment and why medical intervention is vital.

We then go over how often colon cancer recurs and the key risk factors for the disease. Finally, we compare rates of the disease in different countries around the world and highlight what affects these regional differences.

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How common is colon cancer in the United States?

 As of 2019, approximately 1,545,000¹ people alive in the U.S. had a history of colon cancer, including 776,000 men and 769,000 women. It is the fourth most diagnosed² cancer among Americans. Worldwide, 1.8 million new colon cancer cases³ were diagnosed in 2018, and it is the third most common cancer behind lung and breast cancers.

In 2021, it's estimated that a total of 150,000⁴ new cases will occur. This includes⁵ just over 79,500 cases in men and approximately 70,000 cases in women. Men have a 1 in 23 chance⁶ of developing the disease in their lifetime. For women, it is a one in 25 chance.

Black people have the highest rates⁷ of non-hereditary colon cancer in the U.S. and are 20% more likely⁸ to get the disease than non-Hispanic white people. Age, family history, and certain preexisting conditions can also increase your chances of developing the condition.

Overall, colon cancer survival rates have increased⁹ steadily as screening for the disease has done the same.

Colon cancer survival rates and statistics

The survival rate of colon cancer is the number of people by percentage diagnosed with the disease who are still living after a certain number of years. Like with other forms of cancer, colon cancer survival rates are commonly tracked on a five-year basis. This is because the risk of cancer returning after this period decreases significantly.

To give you an example, when it's said that the five-year colon cancer survival rate for those aged 45 and under is 68%, this means 68% of people diagnosed with colon cancer in this age group are still living after five years.

Keep in mind that every individual is unique.  Statistics and survival rates just give you a general guideline for understanding what to expect after a diagnosis. However, there are many lifestyle factors that you can change to impact your colon cancer outcomes, so these numbers don't actually predict your life expectancy.

In addition, as more people choose early screening tests and participate in clinical trials, the survival and recurrence rates for the disease are positively impacted.

Five-year survival rates for colon cancer

Overall, the five-year survival rate for colon cancer in the U.S. is 63.5%¹⁰. Women have a slightly higher five-year survival rate of 64.5% compared to men's 62.6%. The median age¹¹ for diagnosis for males is 66 and for females is 69.

Colon cancer survival rate by age

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 90%¹² of colon cancer cases are diagnosed in people aged 50 and older. Three-fourths¹³ of those who have survived the disease and are alive today are aged 65 and older.

Here's a breakdown of the five-year colon cancer survival rates by age:¹⁴

Colon cancer survival rate by type

There are three main types of colon cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute's (NCI) Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program¹⁵, about 37% of cases are localized, 36% are regional, and 22% are distant.

Colon cancer survival rate by stage

In addition to colon cancer types, there are corresponding stages. About four in ten colon cancer cases are diagnosed¹⁶ in stages I and II, while the remaining 60% are discovered in stages III and IV.

There is also a stage '0' colon cancer marked by cancerous cells found only in the innermost lining of the colon known as the epithelium. If you're diagnosed at this stage, you have a very good chance of survival.

The colon cancer survival rates by stage¹⁷ are:

Colon cancer survival rate by race & ethnicity

Although colon cancer caused by inherited conditions shows similar survival rates among different racial and ethnic groups, non-Hispanic Black Americans have the lowest survival rate¹⁸ for nonhereditary forms of the disease. They have an 8% lower five-year survival rate than the group with the highest survival rate, Asian and Pacific Islanders. This is thought to be mainly due to a lack of access to vital screenings and treatments that can detect and help heal the condition at earlier stages.

The colon cancer five-year survival rates by race and ethnicity are:

Ten-year survival rates for colon cancer

Although the ten-year survival rates¹⁹ of colon cancer aren't tracked in as much detail as the five-year survival rates, we do know that approximately 57% of people who had a stage I diagnosis are still alive ten years later. Of those diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer, about 7% are still alive after ten years.

Treated vs. untreated colon cancer

Since colon cancer is a slow-growing disease that is much more difficult to treat in its later stages successfully, early detection is one of the best ways to ensure optimal outcomes.  If someone foregoes treatment until stage IV, the five-year survival rate is 78% less than if treatment had been started during stage I.

For this reason, colon cancer screening is recommended for everyone aged 45 and over by the American Cancer Society (ACS). In-home or office stool tests are typically taken annually and sent to a lab for analysis. Next, a colonoscopy or other exploratory intestinal procedure may be scheduled to remove any problematic polyps for biopsy.

If it's determined that you do have cancer, there are many beneficial treatment options for colon cancer, depending on its stage and severity. A partial colectomy (removal of a colon section) without chemotherapy is the most common treatment²⁰ for Stage I and Stage II colon cancer. For more advanced stages, surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation may be included in your treatment protocol. Immunotherapy and targeted drugs are often part of colon cancer healthcare plans as well.

How commonly does colon cancer return?

When colon cancer has been treated through surgery, immunotherapy, targeted medicine, chemotherapy, radiation, or some combination of these healing modalities, it may still return. This is called recurrence. There is a 25-40% chance of tumor recurrence²¹ with colon cancer.

Most recurrences happen within the first five years, which is why follow-up screenings are recommended every few months during the initial few years following treatment.

Colon cancer risk factors

Hereditary conditions such as Lynch Disease and FAP (Familial Adenomatous Polyposis) contribute to about 5%²² of colon cancer cases. Diabetes, inflammatory conditions, and a family history of the disease are other leading contributors. The latter accounts for up to 30%²³ of cases.

Lifestyle factors can also significantly increase your colon cancer risk. These include:

  • Smoking

  • Drinking

  • Poor diet

  • Low activity levels

  • Vitamin D deficiency

  • Obesity

A vitamin D deficiency has been shown to increase your colon cancer risk by 37%²⁴, drinking by 15²⁵-25%²⁶, and smoking by up to 50%²⁷.

The prevalence of colon cancer around the world

Which Countries Have the Highest Number of Colon Cancer Cases?

As of January 2018, Hungary had the highest rate of colon cancer²⁸ of any country globally, with an incident rate of 51.2 cases per 100,000 people. South Korea followed it at 44.5 and Slovakia at 43.8 cases.

Here are the number of cases for the next seven top countries (per 100,000):

  • Norway – 42.9

  • Slovenia – 41.1

  • Denmark – 41.0

  • Portugal – 40. 0

  • Barbados – 38.9

  • Japan – 38.9

  • Netherlands – 37.8

For women, Norway had the highest rate of colon cancer, followed by Hungary.

Why are some countries more affected than others?

Seven of the top ten countries with the highest rates of colon cancer are in Europe. Researchers²⁹ believe that factors that increase as a country moves up the Human Development Index (HDI) play a key role in colon cancer rates. These factors include a rich Western diet high in animal fats and processed foods, increased alcohol consumption, and a more sedentary lifestyle.

Developed countries, in general, have a 3-4 times higher rate of the disease than developing countries. By continent, Australia and Europe have the highest rates of colon cancer.

In addition, men are 1.5 times more likely to develop the disease than women across all countries.

Reason for hope: The changing rates of colon cancer

One in three³⁰ people in the recommended screening demographic (45 and older) have not been screened for colon cancer.

However, in age groups where screening numbers have increased over time, so have survival rates. This is because treatments can be started in a timely manner, and there’s a better chance of removing cancerous cells before they spread throughout the body. In addition, education about lifestyle factors that contribute to colon cancer has helped the diagnosis rates to drop steadily since the 1980s.

Between 2007 and 2016³¹, rates dropped by about 3.6% annually among people aged 55 and older. However, rates increased 2% per year³² from 2012-2016 for those under 50. This latter trend is a key reason why the American Cancer Society (ACS) decreased the recommended screening age to 45.

Overall, incidents of colon cancer declined significantly during the period between 1975-2017³³, and the continued focus on new treatments and early screening options has made a positive impact on colon cancer patients and their loved ones.

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  2. Common Cancer Types | NIH: National Cancer Institute

  3. Worldwide cancer data | World Cancer Research Fund

  4. Cancer Stat Facts: Colorectal Cancer | NIH: National Cancer Institute

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  7. Colorectal Cancer: Risk Factors and Prevention | Cancer.Net

  8. Colon Cancer (Bowel Cancer) | EMedicine Health

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  10. Survival | CDC

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  14. Colorectal Cancer Facts & Figures 2020-2022 | American Cancer Society

  15. Cancer Stat Facts: Colorectal Cancer | NIH: National Cancer Institute

  16. Can Colorectal Polyps and Cancer Be Found Early? | American Cancer Society

  17. Epidemiology of colorectal cancer: incidence, mortality, survival, and risk factors (2019)

  18. Colorectal Cancer Facts & Figures 2020-2022 | American Cancer Society

  19. Most colorectal cancer survivors live a large proportion of their remaining life in good health (2012)

  20. Cancer treatment and survivorship statistics, 2019

  21. Future Directions for the Early Detection of Colorectal Cancer Recurrence (2014)

  22. Colorectal Cancer: Risk Factors and Prevention | Cancer.Net

  23. Colorectal Cancer Facts & Figures 2020-2022

  24. Colorectal Cancer Facts & Figures 2020-2022

  25. Alcohol intake and colorectal cancer risk: A dose–response meta-analysis of published cohort studies (2007)

  26. Colorectal Cancer Facts & Figures 2020-2022

  27. Colorectal Cancer Facts & Figures 2020-2022

  28. Colorectal cancer statistics | World Cancer Research Fund

  29. Epidemiology of colorectal cancer: incidence, mortality, survival, and risk factors (2019)

  30. Can Colorectal Polyps and Cancer Be Found Early? | American Cancer Society

  31. Colon Cancer (Bowel Cancer) | EMedicine Health

  32. Key Statistics for Colorectal Cancer | American Cancer Society

  33. Cancer Statistics Center | American Cancer Society

Have you considered clinical trials for Colon cancer?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Colon cancer, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

Joining community groups and exercise programs for my condition made me feel empowered – but I want to be part of finding a cure.
Peter, 64

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