Bowel cancer incidence statistics

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Cancer Research UK supports GPs to deliver best practice. We have created a central resources hub for Health Professionals which hosts all of our CRUK resources and further materials to help with managing the pandemic. We are updating the information as guidance changes. There is also a page specifically for patients on our about cancer hub.

Health Professional COVID-19 and Cancer Hub

Cases

New cases of bowel cancer each year, 2016-2018 average, UK.

 

Proportion of all cases

Percentage bowel cancer is of total cancer cases, 2016-2018, UK

 

Age

Peak rate of bowel cancer cases, 2016-2018, UK

 

Trend over time

Bowel cancer incidence rates have changed differently for each sex since the early 1990s, UK

 

Bowel cancer is the 4th most common cancer in the UK, accounting for 11% of all new cancer cases (2016-2018).[1-4]

In females in the UK, bowel cancer is the 3rd most common cancer (10% of all new female cancer cases). In males in the UK, it is the 3rd most common cancer (12% of all new male cancer cases).

44% of bowel cancer cases in the UK are in females, and 56% are in males.

Bowel cancer incidence rates (European age-standardised (AS) rate Open a glossary item) for persons are significantly higher than the UK average in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and similar to the UK average in England.

For bowel cancer, like most cancer types, differences between countries largely reflect risk factor prevalence in years past.

Bowel Cancer (C18-C20), Average Number of New Cases Per Year, Crude and European Age-Standardised (AS) Incidence Rates per 100,000 Population, UK, 2016-2018

  England Scotland Wales Northern Ireland UK
Female Cases 15,696 1,786 985 540 19,007
Crude Rate 55.8 64.2 62.1 56.8 56.8
AS Rate 55.8 61.7 56.2 61.6 56.5
AS Rate - 95% LCL 55.3 60.1 54.2 58.6 56.0
AS Rate - 95% UCL 56.3 63.4 58.2 64.6 56.9
Male Cases 19,800 2,098 1,340 640 23,878
Crude Rate 72.0 79.5 87.0 69.6 73.3
AS Rate 83.6 88.8 90.5 88.7 84.5
AS Rate - 95% LCL 82.9 86.6 87.7 84.7 83.9
AS Rate - 95% UCL 84.3 91.0 93.3 92.7 85.2
Persons Cases 35,496 3,884 2,325 1,181 42,886
Crude Rate 63.8 71.6 74.4 63.1 64.9
AS Rate 68.5 73.7 72.0 73.6 69.3
AS Rate - 95% LCL 68.1 72.4 70.3 71.2 68.9
AS Rate - 95% UCL 68.9 75.1 73.7 76.0 69.7

95% LCL and 95% UCL are the 95% lower and upper confidence limits around the AS Rate Open a glossary item
 

References

  1. Data were provided by the National Cancer Registration and Analysis Service (part of Public Health England), on request through the Office for Data Release, July 2021. Similar data can be found here: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/conditionsanddiseases/bulletins/cancerregistrationstatisticsengland/previousReleases
  2. Data were provided by ISD Scotland on request, April 2020. Similar data can be found here: http://www.isdscotland.org/Health-Topics/Cancer/Publications.
  3. Data were published by the Welsh Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit, Health Intelligence Division, Public Health Wales https://phw.nhs.wales/services-and-teams/welsh-cancer-intelligence-and-surveillance-unit-wcisu/cancer-incidence-in-wales-2002-2018/, March 2021.
  4. Data were provided by the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry on request, May 2020. Similar data can be found here: http://www.qub.ac.uk/research-centres/nicr/.

About this data

Data is for UK, 2016-2018, ICD-10 C18-C20.

Last reviewed:

Bowel cancer incidence is strongly related to age, with the highest incidence rates being in older people. In the UK in 2016-2018, on average each year more than 4 in 10 new cases (43%) were in people aged 75 and over.[1-4]

Age-specific incidence rates rise steeply from around age 50-54.The highest rates are in in the 85 to 89 age group for females and males.

Incidence rates are significantly lower in females than males in a number of (mainly older) age groups. The gap is widest at age 65 to 69, when the age-specific incidence rate is 1.7 times lower in females than males.

Bowel cancer (C18-C20), Average Number of New Cases per Year and Age-Specific Incidence Rates per 100,000 Population, UK, 2016-2018

For bowel cancer, like most cancer types, incidence increases with age. The impact of routine screening on the age profile of bowel cancer is hard to discern, as bowel screening aims both to prevent and to diagnose early; these effects on the incidence trend may cancel one another out. The overall increase in incidence with age largely reflects cell DNA damage accumulating over time. Damage can result from biological processes or from exposure to risk factors. A drop or plateau in incidence in the oldest age groups often indicates reduced diagnostic activity perhaps due to general ill health.

References

  1. Data were provided by the National Cancer Registration and Analysis Service (part of Public Health England), on request through the Office for Data Release, July 2021. Similar data can be found here: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/conditionsanddiseases/bulletins/cancerregistrationstatisticsengland/previousReleases
  2. Data were provided by ISD Scotland on request, April 2020. Similar data can be found here: http://www.isdscotland.org/Health-Topics/Cancer/Publications.
  3. Data were published by the Welsh Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit, Health Intelligence Division, Public Health Wales https://phw.nhs.wales/services-and-teams/welsh-cancer-intelligence-and-surveillance-unit-wcisu/cancer-incidence-in-wales-2002-2018/, March 2021.
  4. Data were provided by the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry on request, May 2020. Similar data can be found here: http://www.qub.ac.uk/research-centres/nicr/.

About this data

Data is for UK, 2016-2018, ICD-10 C18-C20.

Last reviewed:

Bowel cancer European age-standardised (AS) Open a glossary item incidence rates for females and males combined remained stable in the UK between 1993-1995 and 2016-2018.[1-4] The decrease was of a similar size in females and males.

For females, bowel cancer AS incidence rates in the UK decreased by 2% between 1993-1995 and 2016-2018. For males, bowel cancer AS incidence rates in the UK decreased by 3% between 1993-1995 and 2016-2018.

Over the last decade in the UK (between 2006-2008 and 2016-2018), bowel cancer AS incidence rates for females and males combined decreased by 6%. In females AS incidence rates decreased by 4%, and in males rates decreased by 9%.

Bowel Cancer (C18-C20), European Age-Standardised Incidence Rates, UK, 1993 to 2018

Bowel cancer incidence rates have varied between age groups in females and males combined in the UK since the early 1990s.[1-4] Rates in 25-49s have increased by 48%, in 50-59s have remained stable, in 60-74s have decreased by 6%, in 75-79s have remained stable and in 80+s have remained stable.

Bowel Cancer (C18-C20), European Age-Standardised Incidence Rates per 100,000 Persons Population, By Age, UK, 1993-2018

For bowel cancer, like most cancer types, incidence trends largely reflect changing prevalence of risk factors and improvements in diagnosis and data recording. Recent incidence trends are influenced by risk factor prevalence in years past, and trends by age group reflect risk factor exposure in birth cohorts. The introduction of the bowel screening programmes in the mid-2000s probably also plays a part.

References

  1. Data were provided by the National Cancer Registration and Analysis Service (part of Public Health England), on request through the Office for Data Release, July 2021. Similar data can be found here: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/conditionsanddiseases/bulletins/cancerregistrationstatisticsengland/previousReleases
  2. Data were provided by ISD Scotland on request, April 2020. Similar data can be found here: http://www.isdscotland.org/Health-Topics/Cancer/Publications.
  3. Data were published by the Welsh Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit, Health Intelligence Division, Public Health Wales https://phw.nhs.wales/services-and-teams/welsh-cancer-intelligence-and-surveillance-unit-wcisu/cancer-incidence-in-wales-2002-2018/, March 2021.
  4. Data were provided by the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry on request, May 2020. Similar data can be found here: http://www.qub.ac.uk/research-centres/nicr/.

About this data

Data is for UK, 1993-2018, ICD-10 C18-C20.

Last reviewed:

The largest proportion of bowel cancer cases occur in the rectum, with slightly smaller proportions in the sigmoid colon Open a glossary item and caecum, and a much smaller proportion in the ascending colon (2010-2012).[1-4]

The proportions of cases in the rectum and sigmoid colon are higher in males (31.5% and 23.1%, respectively) than females (23.1% and 20.4%, respectively). In the caecum and ascending colon, the proportions are higher in females (17.2% and 9.8%, respectively) than males (12.2% and 7.3%, respectively), and there are no marked sex differences in other parts of the bowel.[1-4]

A small proportion of cases did not have the specific part of the colon recorded in cancer registry data, or overlapped more than one part.[1-4]

Cases and percentages may not sum due to rounding

References

  1. Data were provided by the Office for National Statistics on request, July 2014. Similar data can be found here:
    http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/vsob1/cancer-statistics-registrations--england--series-mb1-/index.html.
  2. Data were provided by ISD Scotland on request, April 2014. Similar data can be found here: http://www.isdscotland.org/Health-Topics/Cancer/Publications/index.asp.
  3. Data were provided by the Welsh Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit on request, April 2014. Similar data can be found here:
    http://www.wales.nhs.uk/sites3/page.cfm?orgid=242&pid=59080.
  4. Data were provided by the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry on request, June 2014. Similar data can be found here: http://www.qub.ac.uk/research-centres/nicr/CancerInformation/.

About this data

Data is for UK, 2010-2012, ICD-10 C18-C20.

Last reviewed:

Bowel cancer incidence rates are projected to fall by 11% in the UK between 2014 and 2035, to 74 cases per 100,000 people by 2035.[1] This includes a larger decrease for males than for females.

For males, bowel cancer European age-standardised (AS) Open a glossary item incidence rates in the UK are projected to fall by 15% between 2014 and 2035, to 87 cases per 100,000 by 2035.[1] For females, rates are projected to fall by 7% between 2014 and 2035, to 63 cases per 100,000 by 2035.[1]

Bowel cancer (C18-C20), Observed and Projected Age-Standardised Incidence Rates, by Sex, UK, 1979-2035

It is projected that 53,646 cases of bowel cancer (29,356 in males, 24,290 in females) will be diagnosed in the UK in 2035.

References

  1. Smittenaar CR, Petersen KA, Stewart K, Moitt N. Cancer Incidence and Mortality Projections in the UK Until 2035. Brit J Cancer 2016.

About this data

Data is for: UK, 1979-2014 (observed), 2015-2035 (projected), ICD-10 C18-C20

Projections are based on observed incidence and mortality rates and therefore implicitly include changes in cancer risk factors, diagnosis and treatment. It is not possible to assess the statistical significance of changes between 2014 (observed) and 2035 (projected) figures. Confidence intervals are not calculated for the projected figures. Projections are by their nature uncertain because unexpected events in future could change the trend. It is not sensible to calculate a boundary of uncertainty around these already uncertain point estimates. Changes are described as 'increase' or 'decrease' if there is any difference between the point estimates.

More on projections methodology

Last reviewed:

Bowel cancer incidence rates (European age-standardised (AS) rates Open a glossary item) in England in females are similar in the most deprived quintile compared with the least, and in males are 9% higher in the most deprived quintile compared with the least (2013-2017).[1]

It is estimated that there are around 630 more cases of bowel cancer each year in males in England than there would be if every deprivation quintile had the same age-specific crude incidence rates as the least deprived quintile.

Bowel Cancer (C18-C20), Estimated Average Number of Excess Cases per Year and European Age-Standardised Incidence Rates per 100,000 Population, by Deprivation Quintile, England, 2013-2017

No data are shown for females as the difference in age-standardised incidence rates between most and least deprived quintiles is not significant for females.

References

  1. Calculated by the Cancer Intelligence Team at Cancer Research UK, April 2020. Based on method reported in National Cancer Intelligence Network Cancer by Deprivation in England Incidence, 1996-2010 Mortality, 1997-2011 . Using cancer incidence data 2013-2017 (Public Health England) and population data 2013-2017 (Office for National Statistics) by Indices of Multiple Deprivation 2015 income domain quintile, cancer type, sex, and five-year age band.

About this data

Data is for England, 2013-2017, ICD-10 C21.

Last reviewed:

Age-standardised Open a glossary item rates for White males with bowel cancer range from 54.1 to 55.3 per 100,000. Rates for Asian males are significantly lower, ranging from 19.1 to 28.0 per 100,000 and the rates for Black males are also significantly lower, ranging from 29.7 to 43.8 per 100,000. For females there is a similar pattern - the age-standardised rates for White females range from 34.0 to 34.8 per 100,000, and rates for Asian and Black females are also significantly lower ranging from 11.3 to 17.5 per 100,000 and 20.4 to 31.6 per 100,000 respectively.[1]

Ranges are given because of the analysis methodology used to account for missing and unknown data. For bowel cancer, 146,495 cases were identified; 17% had no known ethnicity.

References

  1. National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN) and Cancer Research UK. Cancer Incidence and Survival by Major Ethnic Group, England, 2002-2006. London: NCIN; 2009.

About this data

Data is for UK, 2002-2006, ICD-10 C18-C20.

Last reviewed:

Cancer stats explained

See information and explanations on terminology used for statistics and reporting of cancer, and the methods used to calculate some of our statistics.

Citation

You are welcome to reuse this Cancer Research UK content for your own work.
Credit us as authors by referencing Cancer Research UK as the primary source. Suggested styles are:

Web content: Cancer Research UK, full URL of the page, Accessed [month] [year].
Publications: Cancer Research UK ([year of publication]), Name of publication, Cancer Research UK.
Graphics (when reused unaltered): Credit: Cancer Research UK.
Graphics (when recreated with differences): Based on a graphic created by Cancer Research UK.

When Cancer Research UK material is used for commercial reasons, we encourage a donation to our life-saving research.
Send a cheque payable to Cancer Research UK to: Cancer Research UK, 2 Redman Place, London, E20 1JQ or

Donate online

Join the conversation and follow @CRUKHCPs for news, updates and opinion.

@CRUKHCPs

Acknowledgements

We are grateful to the many organisations across the UK which collect, analyse, and share the data which we use, and to the patients and public who consent for their data to be used. Find out more about the sources which are essential for our statistics.