Colorectal cancer in Australia

Colorectal cancer incorporates ICD–10 cancer codes C18 (malignant neoplasm of colon), C19 (malignant neoplasm of rectosigmoid junction) and C20 (malignant neoplasm of the rectum). 

New cases of colorectal cancer

Colorectal cancer was the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia in 2013. It is estimated that it will become the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in 2017. This is because the incidence of prostate cancer (which was the most commonly diagnosed cancer in 2013) is expected to continue to decline.

In 2013, there were 14,962 new cases of colorectal cancer diagnosed in Australia (8,214 males and 6,748 females). In 2017, it is estimated that 16,682 new cases of colorectal cancer will be diagnosed in Australia (9,127 males and 7,555 females).

In 2013, the age–standardised incidence rate was 58 cases per 100,000 persons (68 for males and 49 for females). In 2017, it is estimated that the age–standardised incidence rate will remain at 58 cases per 100,000 persons (67 for males and 49 for females). The incidence rate of colorectal cancer is expected to generally increase with age for both males and females.

In 2017, it is estimated that the risk of an individual being diagnosed with colorectal cancer by their 85th birthday will be 1 in 13 (1 in 11 males and 1 in 15 females).

The number of new cases of colorectal cancer diagnosed increased from 6,986 (3,524 males and 3,462 females) in 1982 to 14,962 in 2013. Over the same period, the age–standardised incidence rate increased steadily from 58 cases per 100,000 persons (67 for males and 52 for females) in 1982 to a peak of 66 cases per 100,000 (81 for males and 55 for females) in 2000 and 2001 before decreasing to 58 cases per 100,000 in 2013.


Estimated most common cancers diagnosed in 2017

Cancer type New cases 2017 % of all new cancers 2017
Breast 17,730 13.2
Breast (among females) 17,586 28.4
Colorectal (bowel) 16,682 12.4
Prostate (among males) 16,665 23.1
Melanoma 13,941 10.4
Lung 12,434 9.3

Deaths from colorectal cancer

In 2014, colorectal cancer was the second leading cause of cancer deaths in Australia. It is estimated that it will remain the second most common cause of death from cancer in 2017.

In 2014, there were 4,071 deaths from colorectal cancer in Australia (2,236 males and 1,835 females). In 2017, it is estimated that this will increase to 4,114 deaths (2,136 males and 1,978 females).

In 2014, the age–standardised mortality rate was 15 deaths per 100,000 persons (18 for males and 12 for females). In 2017, it is estimated that the age–standardised mortality rate will be 14 deaths per 100,000 persons (16 for males and 12 for females). The mortality rate of colorectal cancer will generally increase with age.

In 2017, it is estimated that the risk of an individual dying from colorectal cancer by their 85th birthday will be 1 in 54 (1 in 47 males and 1 in 63 females).

The number of deaths from colorectal cancer increased from 2,500 (1,218 males and 1,282 females) in 1968 to 4,071 in 2014. Over the same period, the age–standardised mortality rate decreased from 31 deaths per 100,000 persons (36 for males and 28 for females) in 1968 to 15 deaths per 100,000 in 2014. 

Estimated most common cancers deaths in 2017

Cancer type Number of deaths 2017 % of all cancer deaths 2017
Lung 9,021 18.9
Colorectal (bowel) 4,114 8.6
Prostate (among males) 3,452 12.7
Breast 3,114 6.5
Breast (among females) 3,087 14.9
Pancreatic 2,915 6.1

Estimated age-specific incidence and mortality rates for colorectal cancer, by sex, 2017

This line chart presents the estimated age-specific incidence (solid line) and mortality (dashed line) rates of colorectal cancer for males (blue), females (purple) and persons (green) in 2017. The age-specific incidence and mortality rates are shown on the primary (left) y-axis, with 5-year age groups from ages 0–4 to 85+ shown on the x-axis.

Source: AIHW [4].

Age-standardised incidence rates for colorectal cancer 1982–2013 and age-standardised mortality rates for colorectal cancer 1968–2014, by sex

This line chart presents the estimated age-standardised incidence (solid line) and mortality (dashed line) rates (per 100,000) of colorectal cancer for males (blue), females (purple) and persons (green) over the period 1982–2013 for incidence and 1968–2014 for mortality. The age standardised incidence and mortality rates, expressed per 100,000 persons, are shown on the primary (left) y-axis. Years from 1968 to 2014 are presented on the x-axis.

Source: AIHW [4].

Survival from colorectal cancer

In 2009–2013, individuals diagnosed with colorectal cancer had a 69% chance (68% for males and 69% for females) of surviving for 5 years compared to their counterparts in the general Australian population.

Between 1984–1988 and 2009–2013, 5-year relative survival from colorectal cancer improved from 50% to 69%.

5-year relative survival from bowel cancer, 1984–1988 to 2009–2013

This line chart presents 5-year relative survival at diagnosis for colorectal cancer by males, females and persons over the period 1984–1988 to 2009–2013. The percentage of survival is presented on the y-axis.

Source: AIHW [13].

Survivorship population for colorectal cancer

The survivorship population is measured using prevalence data. Prevalence refers to the number of people alive who have previously been diagnosed with colorectal cancer.

The prevalence for 1, 5 and 31 years given below are the number of people living with colorectal cancer at the end of 2012 who had been diagnosed in the preceding 1, 5 and 31 years respectively.

At the end of 2012, there were 13,078 people living who had been diagnosed with colorectal cancer that year, 52,630 people who had been diagnosed with colorectal cancer in the previous 5 years (from 2008 to 2012) and 129,497 people who had been diagnosed with colorectal cancer in the previous 31 years (from 1982 to 2012).

References

4. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2017. Australian Cancer Incidence and Mortality (ACIM) books: Colorectal cancer. Canberra. AIHW. [Accessed February 2017].

13. AIHW 2017. Cancer in Australia 2017. Cancer series no. 101. Cat. No. CAN 100. Canberra: AIHW.