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How common is colorectal cancer?

Excluding skin cancers, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States. The American Cancer Society’s estimates for the number of colorectal cancer cases in the United States for 2016 are:

  • 95,270 new cases of colon cancer
  • 39,220 new cases of rectal cancer

Lifetime risk of colorectal cancer

Overall, the lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is: about 1 in 21 (4.7%) for men and 1 in 23 (4.4%) for women. This risk is slightly lower in women than in men. A number of other factors (described in Colorectal cancer risk factors) can also affect your risk for developing colorectal cancer.

Deaths from colorectal cancer

Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States when men and women are considered separately, and the second leading cause when both sexes are combined. It is expected to cause about 49,190 deaths during 2016.

The death rate (the number of deaths per 100,000 people per year) from colorectal cancer has been dropping in both men and women for several decades. There are a number of likely reasons for this. One is that colorectal polyps are now being found more often by screening and removed before they can develop into cancers or are being found earlier when the disease is easier to treat. In addition, treatment for colorectal cancer has improved over the last few decades. As a result, there are now more than 1 million survivors of colorectal cancer in the United States.

Statistics related to survival among people with colorectal cancer are discussed in What are the survival rates for colorectal cancer, by stage?

Visit the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Statistics Center for more key statistics.

Last Medical Review: 10/15/2015
Last Revised: 01/20/2016