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Bowel cancer (colorectal cancer) in Australia

Bowel cancer incorporates ICD-10 cancer codes C18 (Malignant neoplasm of colon), C19 (Malignant neoplasm of rectosigmoid junction) and C20 (Malignant neoplasm of the rectum).


Estimated* number of new cases of bowel cancer diagnosed in 2016

17,520 = Male icon PNG 9,815 males + Female icon PNG 7,705 females


Bowel cancer % of all new cancer cases PNG

Estimated % of all new cancer cases diagnosed in 2016

13.4%


Estimated number of deaths from bowel cancer in 2016

4,094 = Male icon PNG 2,144 males + Female icon PNG 1,950 females


Bowel cancer % all deaths PNG

Estimated % of all deaths from cancer in 2016

8.7% 


67 in 100 PNG

Chance of surviving at least 5 years (2008–2012)

68%


Lots of people PNG

People living with bowel cancer at the end of 2010 (diagnosed in the 5 year period 2006 to 2010) 

50,615


How common is bowel cancer in Australia?

In 2012, there were 14,958 new cases of bowel cancer diagnosed in Australia (8,239 males and 6,718 females).a In 2016, it is estimated that 17,520 new cases of bowel cancer will be diagnosed in Australia (9,815 males and 7,705 females).b

In 2012, the age-standardised incidence rate was 59 cases per 100,000 persons (70 for males and 50 for females).d In 2016, it is estimated that the age-standardised incidence rate will be 62 cases per 100,000 persons (74 for males and 51 for females).

Bowel cancer was the 3rd most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia in 2012. It is estimated that it will become the 2nd most commonly diagnosed cancer in 2016.

In 2016, it is estimated that the risk of an individual being diagnosed with bowel cancer by their 85th birthday will be 1 in 12 (1 in 10 males and 1 in 15 females).

In 2016, the incidence rate of bowel cancer is expected to generally increase with age (see figure below).

Figure 1: Estimated age-specific incidence rates for bowel cancer, 2016

bar graph showing the estimated number of new cases of bowel cancer diagnosed in 2016, by five year age groups (0-4 to 85+). The age-specific incidence rate for each five year age group is expressed as the estimated number of new cases of bowel cancer diagnosed per 100,000 persons, which is presented on the y-axis. The estimated incidence rate of bowel cancer generally increases across the age groups, with persons aged 0-4 years having an estimated diagnosis rate of 0.0 cases per 100,000, while persons aged 85+ have an estimated diagnosis rate of 430.2 cases per 100,000.

Source: AIHW analysis of the Australian Cancer Database, (see source table 1).

Estimated most common cancers diagnosed in 2016
Cancer type New cases 2016  % of all new cancers 2016
Prostate (among males) 18,138 25.2
Bowel 17,520 13.4
Breast 16,084 12.3
Breast (among females) 15,934 27.3
Melanoma 13,283 10.2
Lung 12,203 9.4

Deaths from bowel cancer

In 2013, there were 4,162 deaths from bowel cancer in Australia (2,299 males and 1,863 females). In 2016, it is estimated that this will decrease to 4,094 deaths (2,144 males and 1,950 females).c

In 2013, the age-standardised mortality rate was 16 deaths per 100,000 persons (19 for males and 13 for females).d In 2016, it is estimated that the age-standardised mortality rate will be 14 deaths per 100,000 persons (16 for males and 12 for females).

In 2013, bowel cancer accounted for the 2nd highest number of deaths from cancer in Australia. It is estimated that it will remain the 2nd most common cause of death from cancer in 2016.

In 2016, it is estimated that the risk of an individual dying from bowel cancer by their 85th birthday will be 1 in 52 (1 in 45 for males and 1 in 62 for females).

Incidence

The number of new cases of bowel cancer diagnosed increased from 6,985 in 1982 to 14,958 in 2012.

Over the same period, the age-standardised incidence rate increased from 58 cases per 100,000 persons in 1982 to 59 cases per 100,000 persons in 2012.

Mortality

The number of deaths from bowel cancer increased from 2,500 in 1968 to 4,162 in 2013.

Over the same period, the age-standardised mortality rate decreased from 31 deaths per 100,000 persons in 1968 to 16 deaths per 100,000 in 2013.

Figure 2: Age-standardised incidence rates for bowel cancer 1982–2012 and age-standardised mortality rates for bowel cancer 1968–2013

line graph with two lines showing actual incidence and mortality rates for bowel cancer. One line of the graph shows actual incidence rates for bowel cancer from 1982 to 2012. The other line shows actual mortality rates for bowel cancer from 1968 to 2013. The age-standardised incidence and mortality rate for each year is expressed as the number of new cases or number of deaths per 100,000 persons and presented on the y-axis. The incidence rate for bowel cancer increased from 58.2 cases per 100,000 persons in 1982 to 59.0 cases per 100,000 persons in 2012. The mortality rate for bowel cancer decreased from 31.1 deaths per 100,000 persons in 1968 to 15.7 deaths per 100,000 persons in 2013.

Note: Incidence rates available for 1982–2012, and mortality rates available for 1968–2013.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare1

Survival from bowel cancer

In 2008–2012 in Australia, individuals diagnosed with bowel cancer had a 68% chance of surviving for 5 years compared to their counterparts in the general Australian population.

Between 1983–1987 and 2008–2012, 5-year relative survival from bowel cancer improved from 48% to 68%.

Figure 3: 5-year relative survival from bowel cancer, 1983–1987 to 2008–2012

bar chart showing five year relative survival from bowel cancer in five year periods, starting from 1983-1987 and ending in 2008-2012. The percentage of survival is presented on the y-axis. In 1983-1987, 5 year relative survival was 48.4%. This increased to 67.9% in 2008-2012.

Source: AIHW analysis of the Australian Cancer Database, (see source table 2).

Prevalence of bowel cancer

The prevalence for 1, 5 and 29 years given below are the number of people living with bowel cancer at the end of 2010 who had been diagnosed in the preceding 1, 5 and 29 years respectively.

One year prevalence

At the end of 2010, there were 13,171 people living who had been diagnosed with bowel cancer that year.

Five year prevalence

At the end of 2010, there were 50,615 people living who had been diagnosed with bowel cancer in the previous 5 years (from 2006 to 2010).

29 year prevalence

At the end of 2010, there were 120,227 people living who had been diagnosed with bowel cancer in the previous 29 years (from 1982 to 2010).


Source tables

Source table 1: Estimated age-specific incidence rates for bowel cancer, 2016
Age group (years) Number of new cases
per 100,000 persons
0–4 0.0
5–9 0.0
10–14 0.1
15–19 0.6
20–24 1.5
25–29 4.4
30–34 4.8
35–39 8.7
40–44 18.4
45–49 33.4
50–54 58.8
55–59 96.9
60–64 130.8
65–69 240.6
70–74 306.1
75–79 388.5
80–84 435.8
85+ 430.2
Source table 2: 5-year relative survival from bowel cancer, 1983–1987 to 2008–2012
Year 5-year relative survival (%)
1983–1987 48.4
1988–1992 53.2
1993–1997 56.3
1998–2002 60.5
2003–2007 63.9
2008–2012 67.9

Data notes

International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems Version 10 (ICD-10)

Cancer, like other health conditions, is classified by the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems Version 10 (ICD-10). This is a statistical classification, published by the World Health Organization, in which each morbid condition is assigned a unique code according to established criteria.

Estimations

Future estimates for incidence and mortality are a mathematical extrapolation of past trends. They assume that the most recent trends will continue into the future, and are intended to illustrate future changes that might reasonably be expected to occur if the stated assumptions continue to apply over the estimated period. Actual future cancer incidence and mortality rates may vary from these estimations for a variety of factors. New screening programs may increase the detection of new cancer cases; new vaccination programs may decrease the risk of developing cancer; and improvements in treatment options may decrease mortality rates.

Due to the rounding of these estimates, male and female incidence and mortality may not sum to person incidence and mortality.

Incidence

Cancer incidence indicates the number of new cancers diagnosed during a specified time period (usually one year).

  1. The 2012 national incidence counts include estimates for NSW and the ACT because the actual data were not available.
  2. The 2016 estimates are based on 2002–11 incidence data. Due to rounding of these estimates, male and female incidence may not sum to person incidence.

Mortality

Cancer mortality refers to the number of deaths occurring during a specified time period (usually one year) for which the underlying cause of death is cancer.

  1. The 2016 estimates are based on 2002–13 mortality data.

Prevalence

Prevalence of cancer refers to the number of people alive with a prior diagnosis of cancer at a given time. It is distinct from incidence (see above). The longest period for which it is possible to calculate prevalence using the available national data (from 1982 to 2010) is currently 29 years. This span is used to estimate the 'total' prevalence of cancer at the end of 2010, noting that people diagnosed with cancer before 1982 are not included.

Age standardised rates

  1. Incidence and mortality rates expressed per 100,000 population are age-standardised to the Australian population as at 30 June 2001.

References

  1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2016. Australian Cancer Incidence and Mortality (ACIM) books: Colorectal (bowel) cancer. Canberra: AIHW. [Accessed January 2016].