CDC: Colon Cancer Deaths Declining in U.S.

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.

Colorectal cancer, the nation’s second-leading cause of caner deaths, 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 Tuesday 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 www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns, 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.

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).

For more information about CDC efforts to prevent colorectal cancer, visit www.cdc.gov/cancer/colorectal and www.cdc.gov/screenforlife.

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