Bowel cancer statistics

New cases of bowel cancer, 2011, UK

Deaths from bowel cancer, 2012, UK

Survive bowel cancer for 10 or more years, 2010-11, England and Wales

Preventable cases of bowel cancer, UK

  • Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK.
  • Around 41,600 people were diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2011 in the UK, that’s more than 110 people every day.
  • In 2011, around 23,200 men were diagnosed with bowel cancer in the UK making it the third most common cancer in men after prostate and lung cancer.
  • Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in women after breast and lung cancer, with around 18,400 new cases diagnosed in the UK in 2011.
  • 95% of bowel cancer cases occur in people aged 50 and over.
  • Bowel cancer incidence rates have increased by 6% over the last decade.
  • Most bowel cancer cases are diagnosed at a late stage.
  • In Europe, around 477,000 new cases of bowel cancer were estimated to have been diagnosed in 2012. The UK incidence rate is 20th highest in Europe for males and 17th highest for females.
  • Worldwide, an estimated 1.36 million new cases of bowel cancer were diagnosed in 2012, with incidence rates varying across the world.

Read more in-depth bowel cancer incidence statistics

  • Bowel cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in the UK after lung cancer.
  • Around 16,200 people died of bowel cancer in 2012 in the UK, that's more than 44 people every day.
  • Bowel cancer death rates have been falling since the 1970s. Over the last decade death rates have dropped by around 14%.
  • In Europe around 215,000 people were estimated to have died from bowel cancer in 2012. The UK mortality rate is 10th lowest in Europe for males and 14th lowest for females.
  • Worldwide, around 694,000 people were estimated to have died from bowel cancer in 2012, with mortality rates varying across the world.

Read more in-depth bowel cancer mortality statistics

  • Five-year survival rates for bowel cancer have more than doubled over the last forty years.
  • Almost 6 in 10 patients diagnosed with bowel cancer will survive their disease for at least ten years.
  • People diagnosed with bowel cancer are now more than twice as likely to survive their disease for at least ten years, compared with those diagnosed in the early 1970s.
  • Research suggests more than 9 in 10 bowel cancer patients will survive the disease for more than five years if diagnosed at the earliest stage.

Read more in-depth bowel cancer survival statistics

  • 54% of bowel cancer cases each year in the UK are linked to major lifestyle and other risk factors.
  • A person’s risk of developing bowel cancer depends on many factors, including age, genetics, and exposure to risk factors (including some potentially avoidable lifestyle factors).
  • An estimated 54% of bowel cancers in the UK are linked to lifestyle factors including meat consumption (21%), overweight and obesity (13%), alcohol (12%), smoking (8%) and ionising radiation (2%).
  • Fibre consumption and physical activity protect against bowel cancer (inadequate levels are linked to an estimated 12% and 3% respectively of bowel cancer cases in the UK).
  • Asbestos exposure, other dietary intakes, and certain medical conditions and infections may relate to higher bowel cancer risk.

Read more in-depth bowel cancer risk factors

  • ‘Two-week wait’ referral is the most common route to diagnosis of bowel cancer.
  • ‘Two-week wait’ standard is met by England, ‘31-day wait’ is met by all countries, and ‘62-day wait’ is not met by any country for lower gastrointestinal cancers.

Read more information on bowel cancer diagnosis and treatment

  • The NHS Bowel Screening Programme began in England in 2006, Scotland in 2007, Wales in 2008 and in Northern Ireland in 2010.
  • It’s predicted that the bowel screening programme will save over 2,000 lives each year by 2025.

Read more in-depth bowel cancer screening and prevention

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The latest statistics available for bowel cancer in the UK are; incidence 2011, mortality 2012 and survival 2010-2011. 

The ICD code Open a glossary item for bowel cancer incidence and mortality are ICD-10 C18-C20 (which includes cancers of the colon, rectum and rectosigmoid junction).

The ICD code for bowel cancer survival 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.

Bowel cancer is sometimes called colorectal cancer and some data include anal cancer.

Survival statistics give an overall picture of survival and (unless otherwise stated) include all adults (15-99) diagnosed, at all ages, stages Open a glossary item and co-morbidities Open a glossary item. The survival time experienced by an individual patient may be much higher or lower, depending on specific patient and tumour characteristics. 

Stage at diagnosis data is not yet routinely available for the UK due to inconsistencies in the collecting and recording of staging data in the past.

Meta-analyses Open a glossary item and systematic reviews Open a glossary item are cited where available, as they provide the best overview of all available research and most take study quality into account. Individual case-control and cohort Open a glossary item studies are reported where such aggregated data are lacking.

Routes to diagnosis statistics were calculated from cases of cancer registered in England which were diagnosed in 2006-2010.

Cancer waiting times statistics are for patients who entered the health care system within financial year 2014-15. Bowel cancer is part of the group 'Lower Gastrointestinal cancer' for cancer waiting times data. Codes vary per country but broadly include: small intestine, colon, rectosigmoid junction, rectum, anus and anal canal, other and ill-defined digestive organs, secondary cancers of small intestine, large intestine, rectum, and unspecified digestive organs.


We would like to acknowledge the essential work of the cancer registries in the United Kingdom and Ireland Association of Cancer Registries, without which there would be no data.


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