Key Statistics for Colorectal Cancer

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 2021 are:

  • 104,270 new cases of colon cancer
  • 45,230 new cases of rectal cancer

The rate of people being diagnosed with colon or rectal cancer each year has dropped overall since the mid-1980s, mainly because more people are getting screened and changing their lifestyle-related risk factors. From 2013 to 2017, incidence rates dropped by about 1% each year. But this downward trend is mostly in older adults and masks rising incidence among younger adults since at least the mid-1990s. From 2012 through 2016, it increased every year by 2% in people younger than 50 and 1% in people 50 to 64.

Lifetime risk of colorectal cancer

Overall, the lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is: about 1 in 23 (4.3%) for men and 1 in 25 (4.0%) for women. A number of other factors (described in Colorectal Cancer Risk Factors) can also affect your risk for developing colorectal cancer.

Deaths from colorectal cancer

In the United States, colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men and in women, and the second most common cause of cancer deaths when men and women are combined. It's expected to cause about 52,980 deaths during 2021.

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 reason is that colorectal polyps are now being found more often by screening and removed before they can develop into cancers, or cancers are being found earlier when they are easier to treat. In addition, treatments for colorectal cancer have improved over the last few decades. As a result, there are now more than 1.5 million survivors of colorectal cancer in the United States. Although the overall death rate has continued to drop, deaths from colorectal cancer among people younger than 55 have increased 1% per year from 2008 to 2017.

Statistics related to survival among people with colorectal cancer are discussed in Survival Rates for Colorectal Cancer.

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

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures 2021. Atlanta, Ga: American Cancer Society; 2021.

American Cancer Society. Colorectal Cancer Facts & Figures 2020-2022. Atlanta, Ga: American Cancer Society; 2020.

Howlader N, Noone AM, Krapcho M, Miller D, Brest A, Yu M, Ruhl J, Tatalovich Z, Mariotto A, Lewis DR, Chen HS, Feuer EJ, Cronin KA (eds). SEER Cancer Statistics Review, 1975-2016, National Cancer Institute. Bethesda, MD, https://seer.cancer.gov/csr/1975_2016/, based on November 2018 SEER data submission, posted to the SEER web site, April 2019.

References

American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures 2021. Atlanta, Ga: American Cancer Society; 2021.

American Cancer Society. Colorectal Cancer Facts & Figures 2020-2022. Atlanta, Ga: American Cancer Society; 2020.

Howlader N, Noone AM, Krapcho M, Miller D, Brest A, Yu M, Ruhl J, Tatalovich Z, Mariotto A, Lewis DR, Chen HS, Feuer EJ, Cronin KA (eds). SEER Cancer Statistics Review, 1975-2016, National Cancer Institute. Bethesda, MD, https://seer.cancer.gov/csr/1975_2016/, based on November 2018 SEER data submission, posted to the SEER web site, April 2019.

Last Revised: January 12, 2021

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