Intended for healthcare professionals

Clinical Review ABC of colorectal cancer


BMJ 2000; 321 doi: (Published 30 September 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;321:805
  1. Peter Boyle,
  2. J S Langman

    In countries with a westernised lifestyle about half of all deaths are caused by circulatory disease and a quarter by cancer. Cancer is an important problem in both public health and political terms worldwide, irrespective of a country's development. The most recent estimates of the global cancer burden suggest that there were 8.1 million new cases, excluding non-melanoma skin cancer, worldwide in 1990. About 10 million new cases are now diagnosed each year.

    The numbers of new cases of colorectal cancer worldwide has increased rapidly since 1975

    Estimated incidence of colorectal cancer in United Kingdom, by age and sex, 1995

    Colorectal cancer is the fourth commonest form of cancer occurring worldwide, with an estimated 783 000 new cases diagnosed in 1990, the most recent year for which international estimates are available. It affects men and women almost equally, with about 401 000 new cases in men annually and 381 000 in women. The number of new cases of colorectal cancer worldwide has been increasing rapidly since 1975 (when it was 500 000).

    Worldwide, colorectal cancer represents 9.4% of all incident cancer in men and 10.1% in women. Colorectal cancer, however, is not equally common throughout the world. If the westernised countries (North America; those in northern, southern, and western Europe; Australasia; and New Zealand) are combined, colorectal cancer represents 12.6% of all incident cancer in westernised countries in men and 14.1% in women. Elsewhere colorectal cancer represents 7.7% and 7.9% of all incident cases in men and women respectively.

    International comparison of five year relative survival for colon and rectal cancer in adults aged 15-99 at diagnosis (based on Coleman et al, Cancer survival trends in England and Wales, 1971-1975; Berrino et al, Survival of cancer patients in Europe: the EUROCARE-2 study; and Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results …

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