Colon cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death in men and women combined in the United States. The American Cancer Society estimates that this year 136,830 people will be diagnosed and 50,310 will die from this disease.
On average, the lifetime risk of developing colon cancer is about one in 20 (5%), however, this varies widely according to individual risk factors.
About 72% of cases arise in the colon and about 28% in the rectum.
With regular screening, colon cancer can be found early, when treatment is most effective. In many cases, screening can prevent colon cancer by finding and removing polyps before they become cancer. And if cancer is present, earlier detection means a chance at a longer life. Generally, the more advanced colon cancer is at detection, the lower the five-year survival rates are.
Colon Cancer Survival Rates
Since the mid-1980s, the colon cancer survival rate has been increasing, due in part to increased awareness and screening. By finding polyps and cancer in the earlier stages, it is easiest to treat. Improved treatment options have also contributed to a rise in survival rates.
- The five-year survival rate for colon cancer found at the local stage is 90%.
- The five-year survival rate for colon cancer found at the regional stage is 70%.
- The five-year survival rate for colon cancer found at the distant stage is 12%.
Stage at Diagnosis
- 40% of colon cancers are found at a local stage (confined to colon or rectum).
- 36% of colon cancers are found at a regional stage (spread to surrounding tissue).
- 20% of colon cancers are found after the disease has spread to distant organs.
Colon Cancer and Age
- The average age of diagnosis is 72.
- 90% of new cases and 95% of deaths from colon cancer occur in people 50 or older. However, colon cancer does not discriminate and can happen to men and women at any age.
- While rates for colon cancer in adults 50 and older have been declining, incidence rates in adults younger than 50 years has been increasing.
Colon Cancer and Ethnicity and Race
- African-American men and women have a higher risk of developing colon cancer and a lower survival rate (about 20% higher incidence rate and 45% higher mortality rate) compared to Caucasians, Asians, Hispanics and Native Americans, partly because of disproportionate screening.
- Jews of Eastern European descent (Ashkenazi Jews) may have a higher rate of colon cancer.
- The risk of death is also increased for Native Americans and Alaskan Natives
Your family history, ethnicity and race can put you at a higher risk for colon cancer. Read more about who should be screened and when.
Colon Cancer and Family History
- People with a first-degree relative (parent, sibling, or children) who has colon cancer are between two and three times the risk of developing the cancer than those without a family history.