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Colorectal Cancer

Most colorectal cancer starts in the cells that line the inside of the colon or the rectum. The cancer usually grows slowly and is curable when diagnosed at an early stage.

  • It is estimated that 24,400 Canadians will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2014 (13,500 males and 18,800 females) and 9,300 (5,100 males and 4,200 females) Canadians will die from the disease.
  • 1 in 13 men and 1 in 16 women are expected to develop colorectal cancer during their lifetimes; 1 in 28 men, and 1 in 32 women, will die of it.
  • Colorectal cancer is responsible for 12.8% of cancer deaths in males (second after lung cancer) and 11.5% of cancer deaths in females (third after lung and breast cancer).
  • An estimated 55,985 men and 48,145 women were living with or surviving from colorectal cancer in Canada. That means that 1 in 322 Canadian men and 1 in 297 Canadian women were diagnosed with colorectal cancer at some point during the previous 15 years.
  • More than 90% of colorectal cancer cases are adenocarcinomas. Adenocarcinomas are cancers that begin in the epithelial cells lining certain internal organs. Some types of adenocarcinomas include cancers of the breast, thyroid, colon, stomach, pancreas, as well as certain types of lung cancer.The majority of these arise from adenomatous polyps (adenomas). Adenomas are common benign tumors that develop from normal colonic mucosa and are present in about a third of the European and USA populations. Only a small proportion of polyps (1-10%) develop into invasive colorectal cancer.
  • What should I know about colorectal cancer?

Risk Factors

There is no single cause of colorectal cancer. Some factors that increase the risk of developing the disease include:

  • Age: particularly for those over 50 years old.
  • Sex: males have higher risks.
  • Polyps: small growths on the inner wall of the colon and rectum.
  • Family history of colorectal cancer, or having familial adenomatous polyposis or Lynch syndrome.
  • Diet high in red or processed meat, and inadequate intake of fruits and vegetables.
  • Obesity.
  • Physical inactivity.
  • Heavy alcohol consumption.
  • Living with inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease).
  • Smoking.
  • Ethnic background: people of Ashkenazi (Eastern European Jewish) descent.
  • What can I do to reduce my risk of cancer?
  • How should I eat to reduce my risk of cancer?

Managing Colorectal Cancer

Facts & Figures

Knowledge Development and Exchange

Initiatives, Strategies, Systems and Programs

Public Health Agency of Canada is participating with Canadian Partnership Against Cancer in developing a national database for colorectal cancer surveillance. As well, PHAC is a member of the National Colorectal Cancer Screening Network.