The American Cancer Society (ACS) has released its latest insights into cancer trends in the publication "Cancer Statistics, 2024." The data, which is available in more consumer-friendly formats at ACS’s Cancer Statistics Center and in Cancer Facts and Figures 2024, provides a closer look at shifting and notable patterns in colorectal cancer (CRC).
Colorectal cancer is common and deadly
The ACS estimates 152,810 new cases of colorectal cancer in 2024. Men will account for 81,540 cases, and women will account for 71,270, according to estimates. Of these, 106,590 cases will be colon cancer, and 46,220 cases will be rectal cancer. CRC is the second leading cause of all cancer-related deaths in the U.S., with an estimated 53,010 deaths in 2024, a slight increase over last year’s estimated 52,550.
Rising CRC cases among younger people
The incidence rate of colorectal cancer continues to rise between 1% and 2% each year in people under the age of 55, an alarming trend since the mid-1990s. The mortality rate in young people is also increasing about 1% each year since the mid-2000s. Colorectal cancer has now become the leading cause of cancer death in men under 50 and the second leading cause in women of the same age group. Young people are often diagnosed with more advanced cancers due to delays in detection.
Improved survival among older Americans
Colorectal cancer patients have benefited from improved survival rates attributed to less smoking, more screenings, and better treatments. The death rate has dropped by 55% in men since 1980 and 60% in women since 1969. Recent trends show a yearly 1.8% decrease in death rates for men and women age 55 and above from 2012 to 2021.
Probability in men and women
Over one’s lifetime, a man faces a 1 in 23 chance of developing colorectal cancer, while a woman’s odds are 1 in 25. Individual risk factors, such as a family history of colorectal cancer, inherited genetic disorders, or certain lifestyle choices, may increase the likelihood that a person will develop CRC. As with most types of cancer, risk increases with age.
Contributing factors and lifestyle changes
More than half of CRC diagnoses can be attributed to potentially modifiable risk factors, such as excess body weight, and lifestyle choices, such as long-term smoking and high intake of red or processed meat. People may reduce their risk by increasing physical activity, limiting alcohol consumption, and keeping a diet low in animal fats and high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Risk of CRC is increased by non-modifiable risk factors, too, including a personal or family history of CRC or polyps, certain genetic disorders like Lynch syndrome, a personal history of bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease, and type 2 diabetes. People with these risk factors should speak with a doctor about when and how they should get checked for CRC.
Family history and early screening
Nearly 30% of individuals under the age of 50 who are diagnosed with colorectal cancer can attribute their condition to either a family history or an increased likelihood based on genetic factors. Screening is crucial, and most people should begin getting checked at age 45. Those with a family history of colorectal cancer may need to get checked even earlier. Take our short quiz for a screening recommendation based on your individual risk factors.
Previously reported data show that Black Americans are 15% more likely to develop colorectal cancer and 35% more likely to die from it than their non-Hispanic white counterparts. Alaska Native individuals have the highest colorectal cancer incidence and mortality rates globally. The 2024 report includes a special section dedicated to LGBTQ+ people and their unique cancer risks, suggesting that the greatest health disparity faced by this community is “the presumption-of-care gap.” This is a fear that a provider will refuse care because of a person’s gender or orientation. Advancements in treatment and early detection have led to decreased overall death rates, but those benefits are not equally distributed. Racial discrimination and systemic inequalities create obstacles to obtaining timely cancer diagnoses, particularly in minority communities.
The ACS report serves as a vital resource for understanding the broader trends in cancer and provides tailored insights into the specific challenges and disparities associated with colorectal cancer. As a valuable resource, it urges healthcare professionals, policymakers, and the public to facilitate a targeted approach to fostering health equity in colorectal cancer prevention and management.
Whether personally impacted by colorectal cancer (CRC), supporting a loved one, or dedicated to educating and empowering others, these downloadable and printable resources can help.
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