Colorectal Cancer Facts & Figures in Brief

Overall Death Rates for Colorectal Cancer Are Down 

Each year, the American Cancer Society department of Surveillance and Health Equity Science analyzes data on colon and rectal cancers as part of Cancer Facts & Figures. Every 3 years, with support from their research teams, ACS epidemiologists Rebecca Siegel, MPH, and Ahmedin Jemal, DVM, PhD, publish Colorectal Cancer Facts & Figures and an accompanying article, Colorectal Cancer Statistics.

These publications provide statistics about colon and rectal cancers in the United States. They also cover the latest information on risk factors, early detection, treatment, and current research.

Here are some key facts and statistics about colon and rectal cancers from these publications.

  • In 2021, about 104,270 people in the US will be diagnosed with colon cancer. About 45,230 will be diagnosed with rectal cancer.
  • Incidence rates are decreasing in adults age 65 and older, mostly due to increased screening. However, incidence rates are increasing among those younger than age 65.
  • Both incidence and death rates are highest in people who are Black, followed closely by those who are American Indian or Alaska Native. During 2012 to 2016, incidence rates in Black people were about 20% higher than those in non-Hispanic white people, while mortality rates are almost 40% higher than in white people —double the disparity for incidence. 
  • In 2021, about 52,980 people will die from colorectal cancer. Deaths for colon and rectal cancers are combined because a large number of deaths from rectal cancer are misclassified as colon cancer. 
  • Like incidence, trends in colorectal cancer mortality vary by age. Death rates during 2013 to 2017 declined by 0.6% per year in adults 50 to 64 years and by 2.6% per year in those 65 and older, but increased by 1.3% a year during that time for people younger than age 50. 
  • More than half (55%) of colorectal cancers in the US are attributable to potentially modifiable risk factors. These risk factors include excess body weight, physical inactivity, and long-term smoking. Risk factors also include eating too much red or processed meat, drinking too much alcohol, and eating too few fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. 

Find more statistics about colorectal cancer on the Cancer Statistics Center:

  • Estimated new cases and deaths by state
  • Graphics showing historical trends in incidence rates (1975-2017) and death rates (1930-2018) by sex
  • Recent incidence rates (2013-2017) and death rates (2014-2018) by sex, by race and ethnicity, and by state
  • Probability of developing cancer (2015-2017) and dying from cancer (2015-2017)
  • 5-year survival rates (2010-2016) by stage at diagnosis

Use the analysis tool in the drop-down menu to see any of these statistics in comparison to other types of cancer.

ACS Cancer Prevention Studies

Focus on Early-Onset Colorectal Cancer

Researchers leading the Cancer Prevention Study-3 (CPS-3) and CPS-II want to learn more about the risks of developing cancer and how to prevent it. Their studies include colorectal cancer (CRC), especially CRCs diagnosed before age 50 years (called early onset CRC), which are increasing in incidence.

Population Science researchers recently created a large consortium study of CRC focused on risk factors for early onset CRC. This work has been highlighted in medical journals:

Recent efforts in CPS-II include the creation of a tumor repository for CRC that is contributing to large collaborations that are studying how lifestyle and behavioral factors are associated with specific molecular changes that occur in CRC tumors.

Podcast: Investigating the Rise of Early-Onset Colorectal Cancer

Listen to this podcast about the trouble increase in early-onset colorectal cancer (CRC) with ACS Scientific Director in the Population Science department, Peter Campbell, PhD, one of the leading researchers in this space. has led to a shift in the age at which the ACS recommends beginning CRC screening from age 50 to age 45 for people at average risk.

Spotlight on ACS Research Publications

The American Cancer Society (ACS) employs a staff of full-time researchers and funds scientists across the United States who relentlessly search for  answers to help us better understand cancer, including colorectal cancer. Here are some highlights of their work.

Extra Chromosomes May Help Cancer Cells Spread—or Help Stop Them

“For a long time, researchers have focused their attention on uncovering the roles that single genes and single mutations play in cancer. But many cancer cells also harbor changes in chromosome numbers that affect hundreds or thousands of genes at once, a condition known as aneuploidy. I think that aneuploidy is one of the last frontiers of cancer genomics. By creating and studying aneuploid cells, we hope to shed light on why cancers become aneuploid and how it affects tumors’ growth and spread.”–Jason Sheltzer, PhD

See the highlight about Dr. Sheltzer's published study.


Regular Use of Aspirin May Help Improve Survival After a Diagnosis of Colorectal Cancer

“We used responses from surveys in our CPS-II Nutrition Cohort to learn about long-term aspirin use both before and after a diagnosis of colon or rectal cancer. We found that those who reported taking aspirin at least 15 times a month before a diagnosis were less likely to die from colorectal cancer. So we looked at the data again to see if we could learn why. We found that people who regularly took aspirin before their diagnosis were less likely to have distant metastases.” Peter Campbell, MSc, PhD

See the highlight about Dr. Campbell's published study.


Discovery of a Type of RNA May Help Improve the Diagnosis and Treatment for Metastatic Colon Cancer

“For decades, researchers focused on how genes that make proteins contribute to cancer. More recently, we identified a long non-coding RNA, which carries genetic code that doesn’t result in a protein, that has the potential to help doctors diagnosis and treat metastatic colon cancer. Our lab is dedicated to understanding how these RNAs contribute to metastatic colon cancer to help guide the development of new treatments for this most deadly stage of the disease.”Christopher Maher, PhD

See the highlight about Dr. Maher's published study.


Researchers Identify Calls to Action to Help Community Health Centers Improve Colorectal Cancer Screening Rates During the COVID-19 Pandemic

“The COVID-19 pandemic has allowed us to pause and ‘look behind the curtain’ to learn about the fragile state of our healthcare system and the existing cancer prevention disparities among poor and underserved communities.”–Jesse Nodora, DrPH

See the highlight about Dr. Nodora's published study.


Extramural Discovery Grants in Colon and Rectal Cancer

The American Cancer Society funds scientists who conduct research about cancer at medical schools, universities, research institutes, and hospitals throughout the United States. We use a rigorous and independent peer review process to select the most innovative research projects proposals to fund. 

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Total Colorectal Cancer Grants in Effect as of August 1, 2021

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Total Colorectal Cancer Grants in Effect as of August 1, 2021

Colorectal Cancer ACS Research News