CDC Vital Signs: Colorectal Cancer: Second Most Deadly Cancer Can Be Stopped Before It Starts

Press Release

Embargoed for 12 p.m. ET

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


Contact: Division of News & Electronic Media

(404) 639-3286

Colorectal Cancer: Second Most Deadly Cancer Can Be Stopped Before It


Nearly two thirds of Americans screened by 2010, but 22 million who need

to be screened still haven’t been

The No. 2 cancer killer in the United States, colorectal cancer, could

get bumped down from its ranking if more people get screened. The rate

of adults developing and dying from colorectal cancer has decreased,

according to a new Vital Signs report released today by the Centers for

Disease Control and Prevention.

The rate of new cases of colorectal cancer fell from 52.3 per 100,000 in

2003 to 45.4 per 100,000 in 2007, representing nearly 66,000 fewer

cancers. The colorectal cancer death rate fell from 19.0 per 100,000 in

2003 to 16.7 per 100,000 in 2007, representing nearly 32,000 fewer

deaths, the report says. The estimated direct medical cost of colorectal

cancer was $14 billion in 2010; for each person who died of colorectal

cancer in 2006, the lost productivity costs were $15.3 billion, or about

$288,468 per person, the report says.

The report finds that colorectal cancer screening increased overall from

52 percent in 2002 to 65 percent in 2010. Still, about 1 in 3 people

between the ages of 50 and 75 are not up to date with recommended

colorectal cancer screening.

“Colon cancer can be prevented, and we are making progress in getting

more people screened,” said CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H.

“Those who receive these life-saving screening tests can lead longer,

healthier and more productive lives. Saving our nation the health care

costs associated with treating colon cancer is an additional benefit.”

Screening is recommended for men and women beginning at age 50, using

one or a combination of these screenings:

* Fecal occult blood test (FOBT), done at home every year, * Flexible

sigmoidoscopy, done every five years, with FOBT done every three years,

* Colonoscopy, done every 10 years.

The report, published online at, used 2002-2010

survey data from the state-level Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance

System to determine the number of people aged 50-75 years who were

screened for colorectal cancer.

Data on the number of new cases of colorectal cancer diagnosed during

2003-2007 are from the CDC National Program of Cancer Registries and the

National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results

Program. Cancer deaths are based on information from the CDC National

Vital Statistics System.

Significant findings include:

* Colorectal cancer death rates decreased significantly in 49 states and

Washington, D.C., with the largest declines in states with some of the

highest screening prevalence, between 2003 and 2007. Across the nation,

death rates decreased by 3 percent per year between 2003 and 2007.

* In 2007, Washington, D.C. reported the highest number of colorectal

cancer deaths per 100,000 people (21.1); Montana and Colorado reported

the lowest (14.1).

* Colorectal cancer incidence rates declined significantly in 35 states

between 2003 and 2007. The highest number of colorectal cancer cases per

100,000 people was reported in North Dakota (56.9); Utah had the lowest

number of cases (34.3).

To help get more people screened:

* The Affordable Care Act will reduce financial barriers to screening by

expanding insurance coverage and eliminating co-payments and

deductibles. Other efforts are needed, such as developing systems that

identify individuals eligible for cancer screening tests, actively

encouraging the use of screening tests, and monitoring participation to

improve screening rates.

* Federal, state and local public health departments can work with the

State Primary Care Association or Federally Qualified Health Centers to

implement methods for reminding patients and providers about the

importance of colorectal cancer screening as recommended by The Guide to

Community Preventive Services.

* The CDC Colorectal Cancer Control Program funds 25 states and four

tribal organizations for the use of population-based approaches to

increase screening among men and women aged 50 years and older.

Population-based approaches include:

1. Policy and health systems change

2. Outreach

3. Case management

4. Selective provision of direct screening services.

For more information about CDC efforts to prevent colorectal cancer,

visit and

About CDC Vital Signs

Vital Signs is a CDC report that appears on the first Tuesday of the

month as part of the CDC journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report,

or MMWR. The new report provides the latest data and information on key

health indicators. These are cancer prevention, obesity, tobacco use,

alcohol use, HIV/AIDS, motor vehicle passenger safety, health

care-associated infections, cardiovascular health, teen pregnancy,

asthma, and food safety.

CDC works 24/7 saving lives, protecting people from health threats, and

saving money to have a more secure nation. CDC puts science and

prevention into action to make the healthy choice the easy choice. CDC

helps people live longer, healthier and more productive lives.