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Bowel cancer mortality statistics

Mortality statistics for bowel cancer by country in the UK, age and trends over time are presented here. There are also data by geography and on socio-economic variation. 

Find out more about the counting and coding of this data.

By country in the UK

Bowel cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in the UK (2012), accounting for 10% of all deaths from cancer.1-3 Bowel cancer is the third most common cause of cancer death among men in the UK (2012), accounting for 10% of all male deaths from cancer. Among women in the UK, bowel cancer is also the third most common cause of cancer death (2012), responsible for 10% of all female cancer deaths.

In 2012, there were 16,187 deaths from bowel cancer in the UK (Table 2.1): 8,795 (54%) in men and 7,392 (46%) in women, giving a male:female ratio of around 12:10.1-3 The crude mortality rate shows that there are 28 bowel cancer deaths for every 100,000 males in the UK, and 23 for every 100,000 females.

Around 6 in 10 (61%) bowel cancer deaths are due to cancers of the colon, and around 4 in 10 (39%) are due to cancers of the rectum. More rectal cancer deaths occur in men than in women (60% male vs. 40% female), while the proportion of colon cancer deaths is similar between men and women (51% male vs. 49% female).

The European age-standardised mortality rates (AS rates) are significantly higher  in Wales and Scotland compared with England for males, while rates are significantly higher in Scotland compared with all other UK countries for females.1-3

Table 2.1: Bowel Cancer (C18-C20), Number of Deaths, Crude and European Age-Standardised (AS) Mortality Rates per 100,000 Population, UK, 2012

England Wales Scotland Northern Ireland UK
Male Deaths 7,200 525 837 233 8,795
Crude Rate 27.3 34.8 32.5 26.0 28.1
AS Rate 20.0 23.0 23.3 22.2 20.5
AS Rate - 95% LCL 19.5 21.1 21.7 19.3 20.1
AS Rate - 95% UCL 20.4 25.0 24.8 25.0 20.9
Female Deaths 6,036 387 784 185 7,392
Crude Rate 22.2 24.7 28.7 19.9 22.8
AS Rate 12.6 13.1 16.2 12.8 13.0
AS Rate - 95% LCL 12.3 11.8 15.1 10.9 12.7
AS Rate - 95% UCL 12.9 14.4 17.4 14.6 13.3
Persons Deaths 13,236 912 1,621 418 16,187
Crude Rate 24.7 29.7 30.5 22.9 25.4
AS Rate 15.9 17.6 19.2 17.0 16.3
AS Rate - 95% LCL 15.7 16.5 18.3 15.3 16.1
AS Rate - 95% UCL 16.2 18.7 20.1 18.6 16.6

Download this table XLS (34KB) PPT (165KB) PDF (40KB)

95% LCL and 95% UCL are the 95% lower and upper confidence limits around the AS rate

A north-south divide in bowel cancer mortality rates has existed across the UK since at least the 1990s.4 and the latest analysis of bowel cancer mortality rates throughout the UK reports significant variation for males, with the highest rates being in the North of England and the lowest rates being in parts of London and the South.5,6

section reviewed 17/09/14
section updated 17/09/14

By age

Bowel cancer mortality is strongly related to age, with the highest mortality rates being in older men and women. In the UK between 2010 and 2012, an average of 57% of bowel cancer deaths were in men and women, aged 75 years and over (Figure 2.1).1-3  

Age-specific mortality rates increase sharply from around age 50-55 in men and around age 65-69 in women, with the highest rates in the 85+ age group in both sexes. Mortality rates are generally similar between males and females until age 45-49, after which time rates are higher for males than for females and this gap is widest in the 70-74 age group, when the male:female mortality ratio of age-specific mortality rates (to account for the different proportions of males to females in each age group) is around 18:10 (Figure 2.1).1-3  

Figure 2.1: Bowel Cancer (C18-C20), Average Number of Deaths per Year and Age-Specific Mortality Rates, UK, 2010-2012

deaths_crude_bowel.swf

Download this chart XLS (58KB) PPT (139KB) PDF (76KB)

Almost a fifth (18%) of bowel cancer deaths occur in people aged 60-69 (Figure 2.1).1-3  Men and women in this age group are currently offered bowel screening in England, and the programme is gradually being extended to include people aged 70-74. In Northern Ireland screening takes place between ages 60 and 71, in Scotland between ages 50 and 74 and in Wales between ages 60 and 74. For all UK countries, screening takes place at two year intervals.7  

section reviewed 17/09/14
section updated 17/09/14

 

Trends over time

Bowel cancer mortality rates have decreased overall in the UK since the early 1970s (Figure 2.2).1-3  For males, European AS mortality rates decreased by 39% between 1971-1973 and 2010-2012. The decline is bigger for females, with rates decreasing by 51% between 1971-1973 and 2010-2012.

Over the last decade (between 2001-2003 and 2010-2012), European AS mortality rates have decreased by 15% in males and 12% in females. There are likely to be several reasons for the decline, including earlier detection and better treatment. 

Figure 2.2: Bowel Cancer (C18-C20), European Age-Standardised Mortality Rates, UK, 1971-2012

mort_asr_uk_bowel.swf

Download this chart XLS (55KB) PPT (133KB) PDF (46KB)

Bowel cancer mortality rates have decreased overall for all of the broad age groups in the UK since the early 1970s (Figure 2.3).1-3 The largest decreases have been in people aged between 35 and 44, with European AS mortality rates decreasing by 62% between 1971-1973 and 2010-2012. Lower mortality decreases in age groups over 60 may be explained in part by the under-staging and under-treatment of the elderly.5

Figure 2.3:Bowel Cancer (C18-20), European Age-Standardised Mortality Rates, by Age, Persons, UK, 1971-2012

mort_asr_age_p_bowel.swf

Download this chart XLS (57KB) PPT (132KB) PDF (46KB)

The impact of nationwide bowel screening programmes on mortality rates should also be seen in the data in the coming years. Bowel screening pilot studies conducted from 2000 onwards in the West Midlands and Scotland have shown that the risk of dying from bowel cancer is reduced by around a quarter in people who are screened.11-13 Bowel screening started in England for 60-69 year olds in 2006 and has since been introduced across the UK, although the age groups being offered screening differs between countries. 

section reviewed 17/09/14
section updated 17/09/14

In Europe and worldwide

Bowel cancer (C18-C21) is the second most common cause of cancer death in Europe, with around 215,000 deaths from bowel cancer in 2012 (12% of the total). In Europe (2012), the highest World age-standardised mortality rates for bowel cancer are in Hungary for both men and women; the lowest rates are in Albania for both men and women. UK bowel cancer mortality rates are estimated to be the 10th lowest in males in Europe, and 14th lowest in females.20 These data are broadly in line with Europe-specific data available elsewhere.21

Bowel cancer (C18-C21) is the 4th most common cause of cancer death worldwide, with around 694,000 deaths from bowel cancer in 2012 (8% of the total). Bowel cancer mortality rates are highest in Central and Eastern Europe and lowest in Western Africa, but this partly reflects varying data quality worldwide.20

Use our interactive map to explore the data for bowel cancer.

section reviewed 29/05/14
section updated 29/05/14

By socio-economic variation

There is evidence for an association between bowel cancer mortality and deprivation for males and females in England (although the association is small for females).16 England-wide data for 2007-2011 show European age-standardised mortality rates are 30% higher for males living in the most deprived areas compared with the least deprived, and 15% higher for females (Figure 2.6). Male differences in deprivation are more marked than for females.16

Figure 2.6: Bowel Cancer (C18-C20), European Age-Standardised Mortality Rates by Deprivation Quintile, England, 2007-2011

dep_mort_bar_bowel.swf

Download this chart XLS (43KB) PPT (125KB) PDF (43KB)

The estimated gap in bowel cancer mortality between people living in the most and least deprived areas in England has not changed in the period 2002-2011. It has been estimated that there would have been around 860 fewer bowel cancer deaths each year in England during 2007-2011 if all people experienced the same mortality rates as the least deprived.16

Associations with deprivation have also been investigated for incidence.

section reviewed 29/05/14
section updated 29/05/14

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References for bowel cancer mortality

  1. Data were provided by the Office for National Statistics on request, January 2014. Similar data can be found here: http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/publications/all-releases.html?definition=tcm%3A77-27475.
  2. Data were provided by ISD Scotland on request, March 2014. Similar data can be found here: http://gro-scotland.gov.uk/statistics/theme/vital-events/general/ref-tables/index.html.
  3. Data were provided by the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry on request, December 2013. Similar data can be found here: http://www.nisra.gov.uk/demography/default.asp22.htm.
  4. Quinn M, Wood H, Cooper N, et al, ed. National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN). Cancer Atlas of the United Kingdom and Ireland 1991-2000 (PDF 423KB). Office for National Statistics: 2005.
  5. NCIN. Cancer Incidence and Mortality by Cancer Network, UK, 2005. London: NCIN; 2008.
  6. NCIN. Cancer e-Atlas. European Age-Standardised Mortality Rates, UK (England: former Primary Care Trusts; Wales; Scotland: NHS Health Boards; Northern Ireland: Health and Social Care Trusts), 2009-2011.
  7. UK Screening Portal: Bowel screening across the UK. Accessed August 2013.
  8. NHS. Scottish Bowel Screening Programme. About the Screening Programme. About the Screening Programme. Accessed October 2013.
  9. NHS. Bowel Screening Wales. Accessed October 2013.
  10. NHS. Northern Ireland Cancer Screening Programmes. Overview of the NI Bowel Cancer Screening Programme. Accessed October 2013.
  11. McClements PL, Madurasingeh V, Thomson CS, et al. Impact of the UK colorectal screening pilot studies on incidence, stage distribution and mortality trends. Cancer Epidemiol, 2012,36(4):e232-42.
  12. Libby G, Brewster D, Fraser C, et al. The impact of population-based faecal occult blood test screening on colorectal cancer mortality: a matched cohort study. Br J Cancer. 2012 Jul 10;107(2):255-9.
  13. Wise J. Population screening in Scotland reduces bowel cancer deaths. BMJ. 2011 Nov 9;343:d7304.
  14. Ferlay J, Shin HR, Bray F, et al. GLOBOCAN 2008 v1.2. Cancer Incidence and Mortality Worldwide: IARC Cancerbase No.10 [Internet]. Lyon, France: International Agency for Research on Cancer; 2010.
  15. European Age-Standardised rates calculated by the Statistical Information Team at Cancer Research UK, 2011 using data from GLOBOCAN 2008 v1.2, IARC, version 1.2. http://globocan.iarc.fr.
  16. Cancer Research UK and National Cancer Intelligence Network. Cancer by deprivation in England: Incidence, 1996-2010, Mortality, 1997-2011. London: NCIN; 2014.
  17. NCIN. Cancer Incidence by Deprivation. December 2008.
  18. Scottish Public Health Observatory, UK. Colorectal cancer (ICD-10 C18-C20). Scotland: age-standardised incidence and mortality rates (EASRs), by SIMD 2006 deprivation quintile. Accessed December 2011.
  19. Northern Ireland Cancer Registry, UK. Cancer in Northern Ireland 1993-2001: A Comprehensive Report 23. Chapter 5: Cancer of the Colon (C18) (PDF 247KB). Accessed December 2011.
  20. Ferlay J, Soerjomataram I, Ervik M, et al. GLOBOCAN 2012 v1.0, Cancer Incidence and Mortality Worldwide: IARC CancerBase No. 11 [Internet]. Lyon, France: International Agency for Research on Cancer; 2013. Available from: http://globocan.iarc.fr, accessed December 2013.
  21. Ferlay J, Steliarova-Foucher E, Lortet-Tieulent J, et al.Cancer incidence and mortality patterns in Europe: Estimates for 40 countries in 2012. European Journal of Cancer (2013) 49, 1374-1403.
Updated: 17 September 2014