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Bowel cancer survival statistics

One-, five- and ten-year survival statistics for bowel, colon and rectal cancer by age and trends over time are presented here. There are also data by stage at diagnosis, deprivation and by geography. The ICD codes for bowel cancer are ICD-10 C18-C20 and C21.8. The ICD code for colon cancer is ICD-10 C18. The ICD codes for rectal cancer are ICD-10 C19-C20 and C21.8.

The statistics on these pages give an overall picture of survival. Unless otherwise stated, the statistics include all adults diagnosed with bowel, colon or rectal cancer, at all ages, stages and co-morbidities. The survival time experienced by an individual patient may be much higher or lower, depending on specific patient and tumour characteristics. If you are a patient, you will probably find our CancerHelp pages more relevant and useful.

The latest survival statistics available for bowel cancer in England are 2005-2009 (followed up to 2010). Find out why these are the latest statistics available.

 

One-, five- and ten-year survival

The latest age-standardised relative survival rates for bowel cancer in England during 2005-2009 show that 75.0% of men are expected to survive their disease for at least one year, falling to 54.2% surviving five years or more (Table 3.1).1 The survival rates for women are similar, with 74.0% expected to survive for one year or more and 55.6% surviving for at least five years.

Table 3.1: Bowel Cancer (C18-C20, C21.8), One- and Five-Year Age-Standardised Relative Survival Rates, Adults (Aged 15-99), England 2005-2009

Relative Survival (%)
1 Year 5 Year
Sex 2005-2009 2005-2009
Male 75.0 54.2
Female 74.0 55.6

Download this table XLS (38KB)

Note:Ten-year survival is not available for bowel cancer

The latest age-standardised relative survival rates for colon cancer in England during 2005-2009 show that 73.0% of men are expected to survive their disease for at least one year, falling to 54.4% surviving five years or more (Table 3.2).1 The survival rates for women are similar, with 72.2% expected to survive for one year or more and 55.1% surviving for at least five years.

Table 3.2: Colon Cancer (C18), One-, Five- and Ten-Year Age-Standardised Relative Survival Rates, Adults (Aged 15-99), England 2005-2009 and England and Wales 2007

Relative Survival (%)
1 Year 5 Year 10 Year
Sex 2005-2009 2005-2009 2007*
Male 73.0 54.4 50.1
Female 72.2 55.1 50.8

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*Ten-year survival rates have been predicted for patients diagnosed in 2007 (using the hybrid approach)

The latest age-standardised relative survival rates for rectal cancer in England during 2005-2009 show that 78.8% of men are expected to survive their disease for at least one year, falling to 54.6% surviving five years or more (Table 3.3).1 The survival rates for women are similar, with 78.8% expected to survive for one year or more and 57.5% surviving for at least five years.

Table 3.3: Rectal Cancer (C19-C20, C21.8), One-, Five- and Ten-Year Age-Standardised Relative Survival Rates, Adults (Aged 15-99), England 2005-2009 and England and Wales 2007

Relative Survival (%)
1 Year 5 Year 10 Year
Sex 2005-2009 2005-2009 2007*
Male 78.8 54.6 47.3
Female 78.8 57.5 52.1

Download this table XLS (38KB)

*Ten-year survival rates have been predicted for patients diagnosed in 2007 (using the hybrid approach)

A common misconception is to treat five-year survival rates as ‘cure’ rates. However, for bowel cancer survival continues to fall beyond five years after diagnosis (Table 3.1).1,2 The five-year relative survival rates for bowel cancer are roughly in the middle of the 21 most common cancers in England.1 Reasons for lower survival include a quarter of colorectal patients presenting as emergencies and over 30% of cases diagnosed at Dukes Stage C or D (Table 3.4).3,4

section reviewed 22/06/12
section updated 22/06/12

 

By age

As with nearly all cancers, relative survival for bowel cancer is higher in men and women under the age of 70, even after taking account of the higher background mortality in older people. The reasons for this are likely to include a combination of better general health, more effective response to treatment and earlier diagnosis in younger people overall. Differences in underlying tumour biology may also play a part for some cancer sites. Five-year survival in the age group 60-69 is slightly higher than the 40-49 and 50-59 age groups though this difference is not statistically significant. The most likely explanation for this slight increase is bowel cancer screening in this age group.

The five-year relative survival rates for bowel cancer in men in England during 2005-2009 ranged from 61.1% in 15-39 year olds to 41.6% in 80-99 year olds (Figure 3.1).1 Relative survival was higher (though not significantly higher) in women for most of the age groups, ranging from 65.1% in 15-39 year olds to 43.5% in 80-99 year olds.

Figure 3.1: Bowel Cancer (C18-C20, C21.8), Five-Year Relative Survival Rates by Age, England, 2005-2009

surv_5yr_age_bowel.swf

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section reviewed 22/06/12
section updated 22/06/12

 

Trends over time

As with the majority of cancers, relative survival for colon and rectal cancer is improving. This can generally be attributed to faster diagnosis and improvements in treatment. However, there is still scope for improvement and increasing cancer survival rates remains a major priority of Improving Outcomes: A Strategy for Cancer.5 An outcome of this strategy is the National Awareness and Early Diagnosis Initiative (NAEDI), which is a public sector/third sector partnership between the Department of Health, National Cancer Action Team, and Cancer Research UK.

One-year relative survival rates have been used as an indicator of early diagnosis, since death before one year may be due to the disease being diagnosed at a late stage. In men, one-year relative survival rates for colon cancer increased from 39.0% in England and Wales during 1971-1975 to 73.0% in England during 2005-2009 (Figure 3.2).1,6-7 In women, one-year relative survival rates increased from 40.0% to 72.2% during the same time periods, respectively.

Figure 3.2: Colon Cancer (C18), Age-Standardised One-Year Relative Survival Rates, England and Wales 1971-1995, England 1996-2009

surv_1yr_colon.swf

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*Survival rates are for England only from 1996 onwards

While relative survival rates are still influenced by early diagnosis after five years, they are also strongly dependent on the success of treatment. In men, five-year relative survival rates for colon cancer increased from 22.0% in England and Wales during 1971-1975 to 54.4% in England during 2005-2009 (Figure 3.3).1,6-7 In women, five-year relative survival rates increased from 23.0% to 55.1% during the same time periods, respectively.

Figure 3.3: Colon Cancer (C18), Age-Standardised Five-Year Relative Survival Rates, England and Wales 1971-1995, England 1996-2009

surv_5yr_colon.swf

Download this chart XLS (56KB)

 *Survival rates are for England only from 1996 onwards

Ten-year relative survival rates for men diagnosed with colon cancer increased from 23.0% in England and Wales during 1971-1975 to a predicted 50.1% in England in 2007 (Figure 3.4).2,7,8 In women, ten-year relative survival rates increased from 23.0% to 50.8% during the same time periods, respectively.

Figure 3.4: Colon Cancer (C18), Age-Standardised Ten-Year Relative Survival Rates, England and Wales 1971-1995 and Predicted 2007, England 1996 to 2003

surv_10yr_colon.swf

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*Survival rates are not age-standardised from 1971-1985
**Ten-year survival rates have been predicted for patients diagnosed in 2007 (using the hybrid approach)

Note:Male data for 2001-2003 is unavailable

In men, one-year relative survival rates for rectal cancer increased from 50.0% in England and Wales during 1971-1975 to 78.8% in England during 2005-2009 (Figure 3.5).1,6-7 In women, one-year relative survival rates increased from 51.0% to 78.8% during the same time periods, respectively.

Figure 3.5: Rectal Cancer (C19-C20, C21.8), Age-Standardised One-Year Relative Survival Rates, England and Wales 1971-1995, England 1996-2009 

surv_1yr_rectum.swf

Download this chart XLS (57KB)

*Survival rates are for England only from 1996 onwards

In men, five-year relative survival rates for rectal cancer increased from 25.0% in England and Wales during 1971-1975 to 54.6% in England during 2005-2009 (Figure 3.6).1,6-7 In women, five-year relative survival rates increased from 27.0% to 57.5% during the same time periods, respectively.

Figure 3.6: Rectal Cancer (C19-C20, C21.8), Age-Standardised Five-Year Relative Survival Rates, England and Wales 1971-1995, England 1996-2009 

surv_5yr_rectum.swf

Download this chart XLS (56KB)

*Survival rates are for England only from 1996 onwards

Ten-year relative survival rates for men diagnosed with rectal cancer increased from 23.0% in England and Wales during 1971-1975 to a predicted 47.3% in England in 2007 (Figure 3.7).2,7,8 In women, ten-year relative survival rates increased from 25.0% to 52.1% during the same time periods, respectively.

Figure 3.7: Rectal Cancer (C19-C20, C21.8), Age-Standardised Ten-Year Relative Survival Rates, England and Wales 1971-1995 and Predicted 2007, England 1996 to 2003

surv_10yr_rectum.swf

Download this chart XLS (55KB)

*Survival rates are not age-standardised from 1971-1985
**Ten-year survival rates have been predicted for patients diagnosed in 2007 (using the hybrid approach)

section reviewed 22/06/12
section updated 22/06/12

 

By stage

Patients who are diagnosed at an early stage have a much better prognosis than those who present with more extensive disease (Table 3.4).4 Over 93% of patients diagnosed with Dukes stage A (the earliest stage of the disease) survived five years compared with less than 7% of patients with advanced disease (Dukes stage D).

Table 3.4 Bowel Cancer (C18-C20), Five-Year Relative Survival Rates and Percentage of Cases by Dukes’ Stage at Diagnosis, England, 1996-2002

Duke's stage at diagnosis Percentage of cases Five-year relative survival
A 8.7% 93.2%
B 24.2% 77.0%
C 23.6% 47.7%
D 9.2% 6.6%
Unknown 34.3% 35.4%

section reviewed 22/06/12
section updated 22/06/12

 

By deprivation

There is also an advantage of between 5% and 9% in five-year relative survival for the most affluent patients compared with the most deprived groups.9

section reviewed 22/06/12
section updated 22/06/12

 

In Europe

Comparison of both colon and rectal cancer survival rates across Europe shows significant inter-country differences.10 It has been suggested that the poorer survival in the UK compared with the rest of western Europe relates to late presentation or delay in treatment,11 but caution needs to be exercised in interpreting these variations.12 However, the existence of differences in survival over time and place suggest that there are ways in which the prognosis could be improved in countries such as the UK.

section reviewed 22/06/12
section updated 22/06/12

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References for bowel cancer survival

  1. For data for 2005-2009: Office for National Statistics (ONS). Cancer survival in England: Patients diagnosed 2005-2009 and followed up to 2010. London: ONS; 2011.
  2. For data for 2007: Coleman MP, et al. Research commissioned by Cancer Research UK, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. 2010.
  3. National Cancer Intelligence Unit (NCIN). Routes to Diagnosis. London: NCIN; 2010.
  4. National Cancer Intelligence Unit (NCIN) Colorectal Survival by Stage. London: ONS; 2009.
  5. Department of Health Improving outcomes: a strategy for cancer. London: Department of Health; 2011.
  6. For data for 1991-1995: Office for National Statistics (ONS). Cancer Survival: England and Wales, 1991-2001, twenty major cancers by age group. London: ONS; 2005.
  7. For data for 1996-2003: Rachet B, Maringe C, Nur U, et al. Population-based cancer survival trends in England and Wales up to 2007. Lancet Oncol 2009;10:351-369. Age-standardised figures were provided by the author on request.
  8. Cancer Research UK. CancerStats report. Survival – England and Wales. London: Cancer Research UK; 2004.
  9. Coleman MP, Rachet B, Woods LM, et al. Trends in socioeconomic inequalities in cancer survival in England and Wales up to 2001. Br J Cancer 2004;90(7):1367-73.
  10. Sant M, Allemani C, Santaquilani M, et al. EUROCARE-4. Survival of cancer patients diagnosed in 1995-1999. Results and commentary. Eur J Cancer 2009;45:931-91.
  11. Gatta G, Capocaccia R, Sant M, et al. Understanding variations in survival for colorectal cancer in Europe: a EUROCARE high-resolution study. Gut 2000; 47:533–538.
  12. Woodman CB, Gibbs A, Scott N, et al. Are differences in stage at presentation a credible explanation for reported differences in the survival of patients with colorectal cancer in Europe? Br J Cancer 2001; 85(6):787-790.
Updated: 3 September 2012